February 3, 2009:
The Romanian armed forces are finding themselves under attack for corrupt practices. This is all happening with a little help from the European Union. Romania has gone back on the offensive against widespread government corruption. Recently, the dirty politicians who found themselves being prosecuted, called on their political allies to get the energetic head of the anti-corruption fired. Protests, and threats of sanctions, from the European Union (which Romania recently joined) forced the tainted politicians to back off. The anti-corruption organization is moving ahead with its prosecutions. This included the removal of the head of the armed forces, and several other officers, for blatant theft of military equipment (for sale on the international back market.)
Bulgaria and Romania were both forced to clean up their corruption before joining NATO in 2004, and the European Union (EU) in 2007. Being in NATO afforded protection from Russia, which was still considered a threat by East European nations. But NATO would not allow a nation with rampant corruption to join, as that would mean many NATO secrets would be vulnerable to theft (via a few well placed bribes.) Similar deal with the European Union, which send in lots of financial aid to needy new members, and does not want to see all that cash stolen by corrupt officials.
But as soon as Romania and Bulgaria were in the EU, the corruption started coming back. Apparently the crooked officials in both nations agreed to shape up just long enough to get into the EU. Then they could go back to plundering, this time with all that additional EU aid available as well. The EU was not amused, and has been putting pressure on, and issuing threats to both nations. This is having an impact, because the Grand Scam quickly became obvious to the EU, and there are threats of expulsion and withholding economic aid. This has given the honest politicians an opportunity to install clean government for the first time. But the dirty politicians are not giving up easily.
Most NATO members are EU nations, and have made it clear that if the two nations cannot clean up their corruption, they can forget about NATO protection as well. The fact that Romania canned it armed forces commander, and several others, for plundering military equipment, indicates that the message was received. Recent history indicates that the corruption problem can be quickly addressed. Greece did an admiral job of cleaning up its problems, in order to gain admittance to the Euro zone (using the Euro as its currency and gaining financial and trading benefits). But, like Bulgaria and Romania, Greece found that after they got into the Euro Zone in 2001 (having failed to make the grade in 1999), the backsliding began. It's a struggle that will take a decade or more of politically hard anti-corruption work to change centuries old traditions.