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Abstract

This dissertation explores the deteriorating US-Romanian relations throughout the 1980s. In particular, I explore one pivotal area of foreign policy that traced the decline of these relations: the US attempts to promote human rights in Romania. Nicolae Ceausescu´s foreign policy operated as an excellent advertising campaign for his non-conformist image for almost two decades. But this image began to lose its luster over time. In the early 80s, the disconnect became apparent between Ceausescu´s lauded reputation on foreign policy matters and his record of abuses back home, which displaced the propaganda of “Moscow’s maverick” with an account of his human rights violations. The image emerging from this study is one of a cunning and vain Romanian dictator able to employ the rhetoric of a maverick to reap significant rewards on the international stage, both economic and political. As this latter depiction of Ceausescu’s policies made its way through the media, US public outcry grew; and Congress was forced to act, ultimately demanding that Reagan take a hardline stance towards Ceausescu’s record of abuse, centering on migratory and religious rights, which thus signaled the decline of US-Romanian relations during the last decade of Ceausescu’s rule. This narrative also highlights US priorities in Eastern Europe during the 1980s. It chronicles the chaotic decision-making process in Washington, as the United States struggled in its transition away from Kissinger’s long-standing policy of support towards Romania. And, finally, it elucidates the dynamic role played by the Executive branch and Congress in propelling action on transnational human rights issues.

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