Bulgaria is a sovereign state and long since had made its choice by becoming a member of Nato, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told the National Assembly on January 21, responding to a Kremlin call for the country to quit the Alliance.
Earlier, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson told a briefing: “We are talking about the withdrawal of foreign forces, equipment and weapons and other steps in order to return to the configuration as of 1997 on the territory of countries that were not Nato members on the specified date. These include Bulgaria and Romania”.
At the initiative of the opposition GERB-UDF parliamentary group, Petkov was asked to address the National Assembly on the issue.
He said that as a member of Nato “we decide for ourselves how to organise our country’s defence in co-ordination with our partners. The Washington Treaty does not provide for a second category of member states for which collective defence will be applied selectively or to a limited extent”.
“We call on Russia to remain committed to a constructive dialogue to de-escalate tensions,as well as to work for a more secure Europe based on the rule of law and strict implementation of international legal commitments,” Petkov said.
GERB-UDF MP Daniel Mitov thanked Petkov for coming to the House and said that the position of Petkov’s government was largely in line with his party’s own, but said that the position should be more detailed.
Mitov said that the Russian narrative was unacceptable and called on the government and President Roumen Radev to take action.
Radev should convene the Consultative Council on National Security and there should be clarity on Bulgaria increasing its defence budget to two per cent of GDP, Mitov said.
Democratic Bulgaria coalition co-leader Hristo Ivanov said that the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement was another element of Russia’s strategy to call into question Bulgaria’s choice, and to revert to the situation where the decisions were made by “great powers”.
“We confirm the choice to be in Nato and we will not succumb to being brought back into the sphere of influence,” Ivanov said.
Ivanov, whose group is a member of the quadripartite ruling majority headed by Petkov, described the government’s position as a strong one “and I am satisfied by it”.
The pro-Kremlin Vuzrazhdane party, the smallest group with 13 MPs in the 240-seat National Assembly, said that only the Bulgarian people could decide which troops would be on Bulgarian territory, and condemned the deployment of “American bases” on Bulgarian territory.
In a statement on the head of state’s official website on January 21, President Roumen Radev said that Russia’s insistence on the withdrawal of Nato forces from Bulgaria was unacceptable and pointless.
There are no permanently based allied contingents and military equipment in our country, Radev said.
The sovereign decision for such a permanent presence or temporary deployment belongs to Bulgaria, in accordance with our allied commitments, he said.
“Our country does not accept ultimatums from anyone,” Radev said.
In a post on Facebook, Movement for Rights and Freedoms leader Mustafa Karadayi said: “Bulgaria has made its geopolitical choice a long time ago – and that is membership in Nato and the EU”.
Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said that the national territories of Nato member countries are territories of the Alliance. The armed forces of the member countries are also Nato armed forces.
This stems from the Washington Treaty establishing Nato, which has been ratified by all member states, the ministry said.
“The Washington Treaty does not provide for a ‘second category’ of member states to which collective defence applies selectively or to a limited extent,” it said.
The ministry cited a 2003 decision by Bulgaria Constitutional Court that “the troops of a political or military union of member states of this union or of allied states, ratified, promulgated and entered into force for the Republic of Bulgaria international contract of political or military nature, are not foreign troops within the meaning of Art. 84, item 11 of the Constitution, if their passage or residence through the territory of the country is connected with the fulfillment of allied obligations”.
“We call on the Russian Federation to show respect for the conscious foreign policy choice of the Republic of Bulgaria for Nato membership and for the decisions of the Bulgarian Constitutional Court,” Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said.
“We call on the Russian Federation to remain committed to a constructive dialogue with Nato member states in the Nato-Russia Council, aimed at the future of a more united and secure Europe based on the rule of law and the strict implementation of international law commitments.
“The current crisis in the security architecture in Europe, as well as the crisis in and around Ukraine, should be resolved through diplomatic means and through dialogue,” the ministry said.
(Photo of Petkov: government.bg)
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