25 December 2019

Is the concept of total armed resistance right and proper for Romania?

Daniel Ilie

Dex online gives resistance the following definition: “Resisting; stubbornness, opposition, defence against an attack. The rejection of enemy’s repeated attacks and the maintenance of one’s own positions. Antifascist popular liberation movement, developed during World War II in states occupied by German, Italian and Japanese troops, as well as in states governed by a fascist regime”.

Image source: Mediafax

The resistance movement, regarded as historical and social phenomenon, represents a specific conflictual condition between the occupied nation and the foreign aggressor, which imposed or it is imposing, by force, a domination regime in political, military, economic, social, intelligence and infrastructure fields. It can be armed or unarmed.

Armed resistance refers to all fight actions executed by the armed groups of a nation against the occupying forces and enemy’s administration bodies, meanwhile unarmed resistance represents the occupation forces, expressed through different actions, whether there are ideological, political, economic, cultural, artistic, scientific etc.

Resistance movement’s actions objective, in the territory temporary occupied by the enemy, is destabilizing the enemy by permanently harassing it, by creating a permanent condition of unsafety and angst, provoking loses to contribute to the gradual change of the forces report, forcing the release of the territory temporary occupied.  

Among the missions a resistance movement can carry out there is the collection and dissemination of information on the enemy, blocking enemy’s forces maneuvers and methods, disturbing enemy’s flux procurement/replenishment, the neutralization of hostile elements, the neutralization  of enemy military police forces and special forces, elimination or dismissal of enemy’s important objectives, the neutralization of different control and guards created by the enemy, hindering enemy’s evacuation and relocation actions of the population, material goods and cultural values, release of prisoners from columns or camos, supporting their own and the allied air actions, the parachuting troops and special operations forces (SOF) and many other tasks.

Ideally, the resistance movement is organized and created during peace times. Within an armed aggression, it's necessary during the curfew, when a mobilization or warfare condition starts. It acts during the latter in the territory temporary occupied by the enemy, following the clandestinity principle, combining fight actions with the daily life, adapted to the occupation conditions and the operations area. The entire society must work on it, it must be conducted by nation’s legitimate government and be deployed until the total release of the entire national territory or partially occupied and country’s independency and sovereignty restauration.

Even after only briefly listing the tasks and objectives the resistance movement can do we get the idea, at least a conceptual one, of the importance of such a social phenomenon, which will be essential in case of a national or collective defence warfare, in the territory temporary occupied by the enemy. Some countries, speculating on the historical, theoretical and practical values of the resistance movement, have set the conception of a total resistance, a total war at the very basis of national defence. An eloquent example is Switzerland, or countries such as the Baltic ones (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Denmark, Finland, Norway, Poland, Sweden which have seriously adapted their security and defence policies and implemented the necessary measures for the planning, organization and development, one way or another, of resistance in the territories occupied by a possible aggressor.

Universal history has showed us the importance of organizing and developing resistance movement on the territory occupied by the enemy, across national liberation warfare, also recording many other aspects of the resistance fight in ancient times. Resistance has an important place within our history, revealing nations’ will to defend their land, social and national freedom.

A brief history

Important antifascist resistance movements were  manifested in many European countries occupied during World War II, like the occupation of the polish territorial army, the French antifascist resistance, the Italian resistance movement, the Soviet partisan movements, Yugoslav partisan movement or the Norwegian resistance movement Milorg, which was developed under many forms like guerrilla fights, sabotage, propaganda, disinformation, refugees’ hiding and the support given to allied pilots who were shut down.

In Romania, even during the World War I, it is recorder the (unarmed) resistance movement of Bucharest’s population against foreign occupation (1916-1918)[i]. It was followed by the anti-Nazi resistance, which lasted until the day after 23th of August 1944, a coup d’état which eliminated the pro-Nazi dictatorship of Marshall Ion Antonescu and brought Romania in the anti-Nazi coalition. According to a final report of the presidential commission on Romania’s communist dictatorship analysis from 2006[ii], “RCP thought it was the party of heroic anti-Nazi resistance and the main guarantor of the country breaking up with any fascist past”. Once the Soviet troops entered North-East Romania, in 1944, it has started an anticommunist armed resistance (1944-1962), or the “mountains resistance”, as some people were calling it. For quite some time, it was a historical phenomenon that very few knew about, being revealed after 1989 as a public topic, says the report.

Historians, academic people and specialists’ opinions are mainly different when it comes to possible evidences to prove the success of Romania’s armed resistance command unity provision (military organization). Only at a regional level (Bucovina, Vrancea, North of Transilvania, Apuseni Mountains, Banat, Oltenia, Northern and Southern Mountains of Fagaras, Sinaia-Brasov-Predeal mountain area, Muntenia, Dobrogea), it seems that there were some attempts to set resistance’s armed groups, but they were not enough to actually control a certain territory. Most likely, the contradictory perspectives on such resistance movements come from their clandestine character.

What is the current situation within the Alliance and Romania?

There is no doctrine on resistance movement within NATO. Article 3 only refers to population’s (robust) resilience and planning, which essential for the collective defence and security, as each allied member has to be resilient, to resist and be able to recover after a possible armed attack.

Once Romania got the NATO and EU member state status, defence and security policies were incorporated into Euro-Atlantic community’s security policies, which meant passing from a conception based on national defence to one that relies on collective defence. They wanted to gradually adapt all strategies, doctrines and national military regulations, as joining the collective defence and missions deployed in NATO or EU’s responsibility area involved the execution of military actions and operations in a joint and multinational framework, as well as the participation to expeditionary operations.

Currently, the military “doctrinaire” framework relies on three major planning documents, state’s National Defence Strategy, for 2015-2019 period, the White Book of Defence and Romania’s Military Strategy. These will, most likely, be updated starting with 2020.

The military strategy defines all strategic and operational principles and concepts, which ensured the accomplishment of all national military objectives and the established missions broadly shaping the development framework of the military body for country’s armed defence, however, in an allied context.

According to this strategy, the final condition is creating Army’s joint action capacity and the necessary force structure to accomplish the ambition level: deterring a possible aggression, executing a defence operation on a national territory to combat all conventional, unconventional and/or hybrid aggressive actions up to the intervention of main allied forces; the participation, according to assumed commitments, to major NATO collective defence operations, such as the Article 5 or a large-scale operation developed by EU, based on the mutual assistance clause.

Therefore, concepts like the country being defended by the entire nation (or nation’s warfare, a phrase used before 1989 within the legislative and doctrinaire framework on Socialist Republic of Romania’s national defence organization, wherein it was being mentioned that “it is each Romanian citizen’s duty, whether it is a woman or a man, regardless of their nationality”) cannot be found anymore in the current military doctrinaire framework. There are even less discussions about the fight actions on the territory temporary occupied by the enemy.

However, among the special operations forces missions from Romania’s Army (ROU SOF), mentioned in the legislation[iii], we can also see some unconventional missions. Nevertheless, these are not explained or defined.

As within NATO or Romania there is not specific doctrine, I have tried to come with a definition for the unconventional actions in the “American special forces joint doctrine”[iv]. It defines the unconventional actions as being activities and operations executed to support the resistance movement to help it destabilize the enemy forces, which are in the territory temporary occupied, with the help of guerrilla, clandestine or even proxy forces.

By analogy, at least until creating some national doctrinaire documents in special operations field, ROU SOF have, according to law, also the mission to support the resistance movement in case of a temporary, partial or total occupation of the national territory by enemy forces.

The NATO SOF conception project about resistance operations, in an allied context

As for the NATO member states or partners, things have changed in the last 6 years, at the initiative of the SACEUR’s Command, the NATO Baltic member states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Poland and even some partner states as Finland and Sweden and the NATO Special Operations Headquarter (NSHQ), which are commonly working on the creation of a multinational Resistance Operations Concept- ROC[v]. These factors joined forces to talk about the common threats, the possible political responses solutions and the coordination effort between these bodies, admitting that it comes to entire society’s effort to provide the national defence.

If each country has its own approach when organizing and planning the resistance movement for a possible temporary, partial or total occupation of the national territory, by a possible aggressor, some actually allowing SOF structures to plan this special effort, others giving this responsibility to other ministries, and not the defence one, ROC would create and agreement, a common lexicon and would offer a multinational basis to plan, organize and execute support activities for the resistance movements, in an allied context.

The conception is about to be published at the beginning of this autumn, by the National Defence University of Sweden.

Instead of conclusions

Resistance is a fight method and an efficient armed resistance movement must be thought and planned before the fact. It is just like the fourth SOF truth: “Competent structures cannot be created after the crisis is gone”.

Is Romania ready to address this sensitive topic and analyse the opportunity of incorporating into its own national defence conception the total resistance principles or the total warfare ones, even in an allied context? Is the Romanian nation ready to test the necessary solidarity to organize, develop and support an armed resistance movement if our territory would be temporary, partially or totally occupied by an invader? Are ROU SOF ready to respond properly in order to provide support for such a movement? How would the necessary legal framework be like? Which would be the fight procedures’ particularities of an armed resistance within the 4.0 industry era, which will change security risks, vulnerabilities and threats’ character and will influence the power balance regionally and globally as well?

There are also many other questions the political-military policymakers, but also the society, will have to answer to when it comes to providing country’s national security, and options such as preparing the nation, the economy and the territory for defence, increasing the resilience, the pre-military planning of young people or even armed resistance’s planning should not be ignored within NATO’s collective defence.

As H. von Dach, major in the Swiss Army, was writing, in 1958, in his book “Total Resistance”, “The military expert who undervalues or even disregards guerilla warfare makes a mistake since he does not take into consideration the strength of heart. The last, and admittedly, most cruel battle will be fought by civilians. It will be conducted under the fear of deportation of execution, and concentration camps”.

Translated by Andreea Soare


[i] http://bmim.muzeulbucurestiului.ro/fisiere/07-Bucuresti-Materiale-de-Istorie-si-Muzeografie-VII-1969_110.pdf

[ii] https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/RAPORT FINAL_ CADCR.pdf

[iii] Law no. 167/2017 for the modification and completion of Law no. 346/2006 on the organization and functioning of the Defence Ministry.

[iv] https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_05.pdf

[v] https://nsiteam.com/special-operations-command-europe-soceur-resistance-operating-concept/