Bulgaria’s defense chief says there is no need to deploy NATO troops in the Southeast European country in response to Russia’s troop buildup near the border with Ukraine.
Defense Minister Stefan Yanev wrote in a Facebook post that “such a decision would not match [NATO allies’] interests nor the national interests of Bulgaria.”
Yanev confirmed reports that “various options for response” are being discussed within NATO, including the deployment of additional troops to members Bulgaria and Romania, as part of the alliance’s Enhanced Forward Presence strategy.
“These processes call for a unified approach by NATO, but without unnecessarily escalating tensions,” he wrote.
“Various response options are currently being discussed within NATO, including the deployment of additional troops to Bulgaria and Romania, modeled on Enhanced Forward Presence. At this stage, they are at the level of military-technical discussion and no final decision has been made.”
He added, though, that “my position is that such [an approach] has the potential to lead to an undesirable increase in tensions in the region.”
“I do not believe that there are the necessary circumstances that can justify a decision related to the deployment of additional troops on our territory. Such a decision would correspond neither to the union interests nor to the national interest of Bulgaria.”
Yanev said that Bulgaria – a NATO member since 2004 – was “ready to increase the capacity of its own national forces on its territory in the context of the alliance’s deterrence and defense capabilities.”
“This readiness is a function of the potential possibility of any type of threat, regardless of the direction from which it arises.”
The comments come as tensions rise amid Western concerns about the presence of tens of thousands of Russian troops near Ukraine’s border, which has triggered fears of an invasion of that country.
U.S. President Joe Biden on December 9 held talks with Ukraine’s leader and offered security reassurances to nine Eastern European NATO members.
Biden held a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and then spoke with the leaders of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.
The diplomacy come two days after Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a video call amid the rising tensions.
Russia denies it is planning to attack, claiming instead that Ukraine and NATO are provoking tensions. Moscow is demanding security guarantees against NATO’s expansion to Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance.
During the call, Biden told Putin that Moscow will face “severe economic sanctions” should Russian troops launch an attack against Ukraine.