Official report: Russia is a threat to Bulgaria

Rosen Plevneliev. London, March 2014. [Chatham House/Flickr] [Chatham House/Flickr]

Russian propaganda, especially via Bulgarian political and economic personalities, and the media, puts the economic and energy security of the country to the test, and undermines its defence capacities, a report published on the website of the Bulgarian defence ministry says.

The 14-page report, Vision 2020, will be presented by the Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev and the caretaker Defence Minister Velizar Shalamanov at the NATO summit on 4-5 September in Cardiff, Wales, reports Dnevnik, the EurActiv partner media in Bulgaria.

According to the report, one of the main risks for Bulgaria is “the new hybrid war, which combines conventional methods with guerrilla, cybernetic and information war”.

"The strained relations between Moscow on the one side and Kyiv, EU, ​​USA and NATO on the other, put a huge economic and energy security ordeal on our country and further deteriorates our defense capabilities," the document says.

Indeed, Bulgaria has been under pressure from Moscow to build major energy projects such as the South Stream gas pipeline, the Belene nuclear plant, and the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline. Conversely, the US, and other Western partners, have discouraged Bulgaria from further increasing its energy and economic dependence on Russia. As a result, all these projects are now frozen.

In the context of the Ukraine crisis, several Bulgarian media outlets are openly taking side with Russia. It was reported that during the November 2013 Vilnius summit, Plevneliev told a pre-summit meeting of the European Peoples’ Party (EPP) political family that “90% of the media in Bulgaria work for Russian masters.”

Last April, Plevneliev said Russian reconnaissance and transport planes were frequently flying along his country’s Eastern aerial border. This, he said, caused Bulgaria’s MIG fighter jets to intercept such flights “two or three times a week”. Before the Crimea crisis, such interceptions were extremely rare.

Bulgarian fighter jets are Soviet-made, and can be maintained only by Russia. Plevneliev said he suspected Russia wanted to exhaust the MIGs' operational life by speeding up their maintenance.

According to Vision 2020, it is necessary for the country to buy new fighters jets, and in case the economy performs better - a new air defense system.

The document also says that civil society has become stronger in recent months, but that “the resistance of the social mechanisms and organisations is still insufficient in the conditions of risks of hybrid nature”.

At least one political organization, the nationalist and xenophobic party Ataka, openly promotes pro-Putin policies. But the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the second force in the country (see background), also often advocates positions close to Moscow’s, in disregard of the EU line.

A recent opinion poll has shown that in case they would be asked what to choose, EU membership for Bulgaria or membership in Russia’s Eurasian Union, 22% of respondents said they said would vote for Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical project. Conversely, 40% say they are for EU membership.

>> Read: 22% of Bulgarians want to join Russia's 'Eurasian Union'

On 27 August the caretaker Prime Minister Georgi Bliznashki announced that the report “Vision 2020’ had created a “mini crisis” in the country and had consequently been withdrawn. The report has indeed disappeared in the meantime from the Ministry’s website. The announcement came after Ivailo Kalfin, a politician from the centre-left political force “Alternative for a Bulgarian Renaissance” (ABV) accused the Defence minister of unnecessarily poisoning the country’s relations with Moscow and asked for his resignation.

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Jay's picture

Corruption is the greatest threat to Bulgaria, specifically, white collar crime.

Any country that attempts to have independent foreign policy not subservient to US/EU Geo-political ambitions automatically gets demonized and becomes an enemy.

kamenchanov's picture

Don't be so quick to judge. 22% is not a realistic representation of the truth. The situation is way too complicated for an outsider to have any opinion whatsoever simply because he or she would be severely misinformed. Most of the people are in the same situation, so do not fret. I will try to simplify it for you, but keep in mind that in general politicians' main goal is to be in power. It has been like that since we were liberated from Ottoman yoke in 1878.

Bulgarian citizens "in favour" of our country joining the former Customs Union expressed their opinion in response to last year's original massive protests against the minority government calling for its resignation. However, they were brought by the ruling parties to the capital on 40 buses with transport, lunch and 20 euros paid to do so. Their numbers were about 2400 people - mainly composed of elderly who have always voted for the Socialist Party, Roma citizens (though they prefer to be called jipsies) and Turks who are the firm electorate of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and the extremist party Ataka. So far, I have only heard the leader of Ataka (a disgusting little man) talking on radio, TV and newspaper interviews about how we should leave the EU and join the Eurasian Union. He talks about europeadophelia, continuously expresses racist views, attacks people physically and uses his political power abusively. This is why he is currently facing several trials.

Officially, Bulgarian population amounts approximately to 7,5 mln people. Do you still think that these 2400 (who obviously believe one free trip to the capital, one piece of pizza and 20 euro are enough to buy their votes) amount to 22% of the population in favour of Bulgaria joinin the Eurasion Union? Just don't be so quick to judge and don't put us all under the same denominator.

Jay's picture

Depends on the outsider and I'm speaking from experience. Most visitors do their homework before embarking to a foreign country and even more so if an extended stay is expected. All countries have their own parculiar positives and negatives, Bulgaria is no exception.

From my perspective in the city of Blagoevgrad, it was thoroughly enjoyable, people were friendly, and the children always know the best swimming holes, fishing spots, where to shop, how much to pay, and are eager to help foreigners.

On the negative side, the less one has to do with government officials the better. EU always ignores their own official reports/studies until a crisis develops, then they talk it to death, and issue a new report.

kamenchanov's picture

My comment was directed to the first comment :P
Many of my foreign friends have told me that they liked Bulgaria when they visited. It has a beautiful nature and warm people in general, but the political situation is a mess to us, let alone to passersby.