NATO Coordination Center to Open in Bulgaria – Why Bulgaria Needs Protection from Putin

  • The headquarters will be located in Romania.
  • Russia tried to interfere in the last Bulgarian election.
  • Historically, Bulgarians viewed Russia favorably.

Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borisov, after discussions with US President Donald Trump, announced Bulgaria readiness to have NATO use its Black Sea port for naval coordination efforts amid growing fears of Putin’s military appetite and Russia’s growing rift with the West. According to Borisov, the military  exercises in the Black Sea are much needed and the more the merrier because they have a preventative  effect.

Bulgaria will have a NATO coordination center.  The command headquarters will be in Romania with a coordination center in Varna for logistical convenience.

During the Cold War, the Soviets had OTR-23 Oka missiles in Bulgaria– a mobile theater ballistic missile deployed to replace the obsolete SS-1C ‘Scud B’. It carried the GRAU index 9K714 and was assigned the NATO reporting name SS-23 Spider.

Bulgaria has experienced a fair share of security threats from Russia, with the GRU operating inside the country. Last week Bellingcat published results of their investigation (a joint investigation with Der Spiegel and The Insider) into a poisoning operation in Bulgaria conducted by a team of as many as eight GRU officers.

Bellingcat is an investigative journalism website that specializes in fact-checking and open-source intelligence. It was founded by the British journalist and former blogger Eliot Higgins in July 2014.

On April 24, 2015, two GRU officers traveling undercover as the tourists “Georgy Gorshkov” and “Sergey Fedotov” arrived in Bulgaria’s Black Sea resort city of Bourgas to poison Bulgarian national Emillian Gebrev. The type of poison used at the time could not be identified, However, Gebrev approached Bulgarian authorities with a request to reopen the investigation after the Skripals poisoning in the UK in 2018. One of the plausible reasons Russian GRU members poisoned Gebrev is related to the power struggle of oligarchs in Bulgaria, with Russia having direct influence in 2015 and personal interests in the arms trade.

In 2017 a document was published about Russia using Rigged Polls and fake news to sway Bulgarian elections to have the Pro-Russian candidate elected. Boyko Borisov won with a narrow margin advocating pro Western democratic views, but it was dangerously close how the Bulgarian election almost allowed Russia to sway the nation towards former Soviet era control.

Bulgaria never looked at Russia negatively and did not dislike communist influence, due to previously being under Ottoman Empire rule. Bulgaria was liberated by the Imperial Russian Army during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878— a conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Eastern Orthodox coalition led by the Russian Empire and composed of Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro. Fought in the Balkans and in the Caucasus, it originated in emerging 19th-century Balkan nationalism.

Bulgaria is very important as a key geostrategic location. Its location between Europe and Asia makes it attractive to the Great Powers for control and access to a warm water port which holds tremendous value.  After World War II, Bulgaria joined the Warsaw Pact and was in the full geopolitical sphere of the Soviets.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, both Russia and the West have made ongoing efforts to gain geopolitical control in the region. Under Putin, Russia is dangerous as seen by their recent exit from one article of the Geneva convention— a pivotal article as it is about recognition of the jurisdiction of the United Nations special commission to play the role of a judicial body assessing violations.

Bulgaria is a NATO member and ally. In order to sustain its independence from Putin’s influence, the strategic NATO center will strengthen Bulgaria’s ability to offset Russian aggression, including avoiding the Crimea annexation scenario from repeating.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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