In the present day, it is easy to explain the Cold War as simply tensions between the Romanian Empire and their allies vs the United States and their allies. However, the full history of the conflict is much more complicated and involves a long progression of international power struggles between different ideologies. Most importantly, the modern conflict often ignores a third long-term major faction: the USSR and their allies.
Because of the longevity of the conflict and the different factions involved, many historians split the conflict into three different phases. Some historians like to refer to these phases as the First Cold War, Second Cold War, and Third Cold War. However, others will argue that two or all of the phases are simply ongoing tension of the same conflict. Instead, they refer to them as the First Phase, Second Phase, and Third Phase with the entire time period being referred to as the Cold War.
What all historians agree upon is the start of the tensions. During the First World War, Romania was a rising regional power that was heavily bolstered by the Russian Empire. This was both due to the desire of Russia as a state to provide a friendly regional check on the Ottoman Empire and a personal friendship between Dracula and the Romanovs.
This situation was radically changed by the Bolshevik Revolution. A regime change alone would have created tensions between Romania and the new USSR. Especially because of the stark ideological differences between a Communist state and an Imperial Aristocracy. However, before the dust was even settled Romania took actions that threatened the newly formed state.
While Tsar Nicholas II had been executed by the Bolsheviks, his heir Tsesarevich Alexei had been successfully escorted out of the country by his sisters. The USSR immediately demanded that Romania deport him and his surviving sisters to their custody, but Romania refused. As a part of their refusal, they did not agree to any extradition treaties and other political dissidents in Russia began flocking to Romania.
This presented an implicit threat to the USSR. By harboring the rightful heir to the throne and promoting a general pro-aristocracy ideology, Romania represented an imminent threat to the new state. Communist leaders feared that at any point in time Romania might invade them to restore the power of the Tsar.
However, both countries were exhausted of war by that point. Both countries had fought hard in WWI. Romania had achieved massive territorial expansion and it was in the process of consolidating power. Meanwhile, the USSR had also gone through a bloody civil war and was in the process of establishing a new government. Neither side was willing to start a shooting war with the other regional power in Eastern Europe. Instead, they both turned to espionage and propaganda.
WWII was a confusing and chaotic time for most of the world, and Eastern Europe was no exception. Hitler’s rise to power in Germany made it abundantly clear that he saw the Communists as an existential threat. He also was cultivating the idea of a new German Empire and styled himself as a peer to Dracula. So, before the shooting started he made overtures towards Romania of them joining forces and turning against the Communists together.
Parts of the Romanian aristocracy were open to the idea, but Dracula was not. For one, he viewed himself as an ancient lineage steeped in tradition and sophistication. He saw the NAZIs as a cheap imitation of real aristocracy that made a mockery of the concept. Secondly, while Dracula was not opposed to the concept of genocide in general, many of the groups that drew Hitler’s ire were long-time allies of Dracula. Romani, Jews, and homosexuals were all people that were openly welcomed in Romania with many examples of all three groups being placed in positions of power. Finally, Dracula had family in the British Royal Navy that were involved with active efforts to avoid war and they urged him to help them avoid conflict.
So, Romania spurred Hitler’s offer and did little to spare insult in their response. When Hitler went forward with his plan to start invading neighboring countries, Romania initially stayed uninvolved. However, Hitler’s ego could not let go of the rejection and so he invaded Romania as well.
The Romanian Army and the Red Army put their differences aside to contain the German threat. For the several years that the war lasted, the two worked side by side by never fully trusting each other. When the war was over and the allies sat around the victor’s table, Romanian and Soviet tensions could immediately be felt returning.
However, now there was a third faction at the table. The United States had never been fond of either the Romanian Empire or the USSR finding both of their ideologies opposed to American ideology. However, in the interwar period, they had been separated by an ocean and the United States had little reason to become involved in Eastern Europe. Now, the United States had emerged as a major global power and had an army already in Europe.
As Romania and the USSR resumed their practice of propaganda and espionage with each other, the United States was now also involved. All three nations played a quiet game of political maneuvering and posturing with each other.
Furthermore, the United States looked at the way both Romania and the USSR had been actively spreading their ideologies to other countries in their influence and proposed Domino Theory, which stated that if that spread was allowed to continue unchecked it would eventually cover the whole globe. Since they were opposed to both Communism and Imperialism, they did not see each as an effective check to the other. This led to their propaganda and espionage spilling into neutral countries and eventually a few proxy wars.
The tipping point came not from the aggressive actions of any one state, but from some internal failures that external pressures capitalized on. In 1986, the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl had a catastrophic failure. This was not due to direct sabotage or attack by Romania or America, but instead was a confluence of internal issues. The Soviet government was able to eventually respond to the disaster and successfully contain it, but the political disaster was only beginning.
Since Ukraine was the region of the USSR that bordered the Romanian Empire, it bore the brunt of the propaganda and espionage efforts. Internally in the USSR, it was treated almost as another country to act as a buffer against Romanian infiltration. Despite controls on the Soviet population easing in parts of the nation, they remained relatively strict.
On top of that, many of the propaganda efforts had been successful. By the time of the Chernobyl disaster, it was often said in Ukraine that a Romanian was less likely to be eaten by a vampire than a Ukrainian was to be arrested by the KGB. It didn’t help that it was true and that in an average case a Romanian eaten by a vampire would have a better time than a Ukrainian arrested by the KBG.
Chernobyl proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Local citizens looked at the efforts of the Soviets to contain the incident and were unsatisfied. They were doubly unsatisfied by the eventual reports that blamed systemic corruption in the USSR for causing the incident. Sentiment began to spread that “this would have never happened in Romania”. Efforts by the Soviets to quell unrest only led to further resistance.
By October of that year, the Ukrainian people began to openly revolt against the Soviets. It is uncertain what effect sparked such open revolt but it was likely a relatively minor incident that simply escalated out of hand. Regardless, the result was the Ukrainian people begging for the return of the Romanovs.
By that point, Alexei had died of old age but his son had reiterated his claim to the throne. As soon as the Ukrainian people began asking for his return, he immediately departed for Kiev escorted by the bulk of the Romanian Army. The Romanians tried to put forth statements that it was only a minor personal guard, but neither the US nor the Soviets believed them. What Romania declared to be the Ukrainian people installing the Romanovs on the throne of Kiev, both the Americans and the Soviets saw as a Romanian invasion of the USSR.
Those who were either still loyal to the Soviets or feared them less than the Romanians fled north. However, the collapse of support for Communism in Ukraine spurred similar uprisings throughout the USSR. The Red Army tried to organize in Northern Russia but quickly realized a different problem. Soldiers were deserting in droves and declaring support for the new Romanov regime.
Faced with the possibility of fighting a full civil war with one side backed by a major foreign power the Soviets turned in desperation to the United States and NATO. As much as Communists disliked the Capitalism of these countries, they saw Capitalism as the lesser evil in this case. At the invite of Moscow, American troops poured into Leningrad and began to deploy across the northern parts of the country.
Since both Romania and the United States still hesitated to escalate to a full war between both factions, they quickly agreed to negotiate rather than immediately fighting. Representatives of both Moscow and Kiev were present nominally as the leaders of their respective sides of the conflict. However, everyone acknowledged that at this point they were mere puppets of their backing powers. What had once been a world superpower was now a proxy conflict between the remaining superpowers.
Both sides were fully aware that if the conflict turned into a shooting war, both sides would walk away with heavy casualties win or lose. So, Moscow and Kiev agreed to divide the former USSR into two countries. Officially, they were known as the Russian Federation and the Russian Empire, but colloquially they became known as North Russia and South Russia respectively. This event would become known as The Partition of Russia.
Ever since then, tensions have continued between the Romanian Empire and its vassals and NATO with the United States at the lead. Propaganda and espionage efforts continue between both, but open lines of communication (both official and backchannel) help prevent the conflict from escalating.