The increase of the defensive deterrence posture of Nato should go hand-in-hand with deepening political dialogue with Russia, to avoid confrontation and misunderstanding and to lower the risks, Bulgarian President Roumen Radev said after talks with Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Radev endorsed US president Donald Trump’s view that the main threats come from international terrrorism.
Referring to the need to counter the so-called “Islamic State”, Radev said that “these are all threats that cannot be tackled unless Nato and Russia have common efforts on this, both in the Middle East and in the global fight against terrorism”.
The Bulgarian President, making his first visit abroad as head of state since his January 22 inauguration, was responding to a question about his view on easing sanctions on Russia.
Reportedly, on the eve of his January 30-31 visit to Brussels, where he has been meeting EU and Nato leaders, Radev said that he did not see the “practical use” of the sanctions against Russia.
“I do not see what is the practical use of them, as the losses are obvious. I fear that the new US administration will restore the dialogue with Russia and the EU will remain hostage to the sanction war,” Radev was reported to have said.
Radev, a former Bulgarian Air Force commanding general who resigned his commission to stand as a socialist-backed candidate in the country’s 2016 presidential elections, told the joint news conference with Stoltenberg that for Bulgaria, Nato remained a vital organisation for the protection of the security of its member states and ensuring stability beyond the borders of the alliance.
He said that the fact that his first visit abroad included coming to Nato headquarters showed the importance for Bulgaria of Nato as an organisation of shared values and shared responsibilites for collective security and defence.
“We support the efforts of Nato defense and deterrence and we think that Bulgaria is part of those efforts,” Radev said, adding that he had assured Stoltenberg that Bulgaria would make every effort to fulfil the Nato Wales Summit decisions by reaching two per cent of GDP going to defence spending.
Responding to the question about sanctions on Russia, Stoltenberg said that he supported them, noting that they were part of the response by many countries.
In his opening remarks at the news conference, Stoltenberg said: “The security environment which surrounds us is changing. We see a more assertive Russia. We see the turmoil and the violence to the South – terrorism. And we see cyber-attacks and hybrid warfare”.
Nato was responding, Stoltenberg said.
“We are responding by increasing our presence both in the south east of the Alliance, and in the Baltic countries and in Poland. We are strengthening our presence in the Black Sea region, with a package of measures on land, at sea and in the air. And we will finalise this work at our meeting of defence ministers in February. And several Allies have already indicated they will contribute to this presence. A strong sign of Nato solidarity,” the Nato Secretary-General said.
But security does not come for free, Stoltenberg said.
“Therefore we have to increase defence spending and I welcome that Bulgaria has now started to increase its investments in defence. I think this just underscores the commitment of Bulgaria to Nato and to Nato decisions to strengthen our collective defence and to increase defence spending.”
Nato does not want confrontation with Russia, Stoltenberg said.
“We don’t seek confrontation with Russia. We don’t want a new Cold War so our response is measured. It is transparent and it is defensive. But it sends a clear signal that we stand together. That all Allies are ready to protect each other. Defending one another,” he said.