The Staging of US Troops in Bulgaria Is Unnecessary and a Liability –

This weekend, we Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Bulgaria and held a joint press conference with Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov. Lloyd also addressed we and Bulgarian troops.

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Lloyd and Petkov announced that the we provides the company Stryker to stage in Bulgaria. The Stryker is an armored fighting vehicle unit. the we establishes a battle group of up to 1,000 troops under the operational command of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

The position of the we The Ministry of Defense must help NATO strengthen its eastern flank amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. But as usual, having we troops on the territory of a country is a handicap.

It’s a 180 turn. Bulgaria’s former defense minister, Stefan Yanev, said in February that America troops in Bulgaria were not necessary and relocation should be avoided.

allowing we troops in Bulgaria is an unnecessary risk and liability. The presence of we troops generally poses a risk to residents. It is also based on the assumption that there is a scenario in which President Putin could invade Bulgaria, and that’s a risky message to send. Russia does not invade Bulgariain all circumstances, and the position of the Bulgarian leaders must take this into account.

Previously, in December 2021, I had issued the opinion in Novinite that the staging we troops on Bulgarian territory would be a disaster. Former Defense Minister Yanev held the same position. Yanev was sacked quickly after pushing a more measured stance on the war in Ukraine and on what Bulgariaforeign policy should be.

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In accordance with Prime Minister Petkov’s policy towards Russia, we troops is an escalating movement Bulgariaby creating an unnecessary risk in relation to the message that Bulgarian leaders are sending to President Putin.

Also, just like the presence of UN blue helmets, we troops‘ presence is often bad news for the local population. In June 2021, we troops stormed and randomly attacked a Bulgarian factory. More armed we troops on Bulgarian soil will open more risky situations. Despite what the we The position of the Ministry of Defense states – that Bulgaria is “now at the head of a NATO multinational battle group” – it is clear that Bulgaria will not have command over we NATO troops in Bulgaria.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev warned against supplying arms to Ukraine and involving Bulgaria more directly in the conflict. Additionally, there were talks ahead of Austin’s visit, with international media reports that Bulgaria could hand over the Soviet-designed S-300 air defense system to Ukraine – this is military equipment that Bulgaria obtained from Russia in the days of the Soviet Union. The Financial Times reported that the purpose of Austin’s visit was actually to request exactly that – Russian-made anti-aircraft systems from countries that have similar types of weapons, such as Bulgaria and Slovakia, which will be sent to Ukraine for use by the kyiv army. Slovak defense chief Yaroslav Nad said in Bratislava that Slovakia was ready to supply its C-300 systems if NATO allies provided a replacement system. Many central European countries are eager to go further, even if it means a slap like this. Bulgariaon the other hand, will not be so easy to convince.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Petkov was firm and said that Bulgaria will not send arms to Ukraine, as other NATO and EU countries on the eastern flank do. It was the right choice. Despite efforts to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank, Bulgaria and the we finally clarified that they did not plan to supply lethal military equipment to Ukraine.

Bulgaria will continue to provide humanitarian support to Ukrainians. Austin earlier rented Bulgariaaid to Ukraine and the response to refugees fleeing war. It is absolutely necessary.

Bulgaria promised to continue to send humanitarian aid to Kyiv and to take in thousands of Ukrainian refugees. And that is how far the Bulgarian commitment must go.

There are levels of commitment in this situation and Bulgarian leaders need to be aware that on some decisions you cannot go back because President Putin will retaliate accordingly. Bulgaria has the right to have reservations about common EU sanctions, especially in the context of Bulgariathe obvious energy dependence on Russian gas. Bulgaria’s dependence on Russian gas is nearly 90%, according to some estimates. These are realities that must be taken into account.

As Bulgarians, we cannot send President Putin the message that we think he might invade Bulgaria and we must arm ourselves. This is a dangerous assumption to point out. And more we troops would report exactly that.

Iveta Cherneva is an author and political commentator.

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