The Nato allies must stop the decline of defence budgets and start reversing the trend, Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Sofia on April 11 2014, calling on Bulgaria to continue working with Allies in the region to acquire critical modern capabilities, including aircraft.
He was in the Bulgarian capital city to congratulate the country on the 10th anniversary of its accession to the alliance, a Nato statement said
“At this time, more than ever, we realise that Bulgaria is stronger within Nato. And Nato is stronger with Bulgaria. You are making a valuable contribution to security in the vital Black Sea region, the Western Balkans, and as far as Afghanistan. And Bulgaria’s membership of Nato has contributed to making our Open Door policy a success.”
He was speaking after talks with President Rossen Plevneliev and with Plamen Oresharski, occupant of the prime minister’s chair in the Bulgarian Socialist Party-appointed cabinet.
Fogh Rasmussen said that since the end of the Cold War, Nato and the European Union had created the framework for a new Europe: “through the accession of new members, we have expanded freedom, prosperity, human rights and the rule of law in the Euro-Atlantic space. To the benefit of everyone in Europe, and beyond. This is a historic achievement that cannot be denied. ”
But he warned that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine challenged the vision of Europe whole, free and at peace: “Russia’s attempts to draw new dividing lines in Europe by force, to limit the sovereignty of Ukraine, and to recreate a new sphere of influence run contrary to international norms.
“I call on Russia to take concrete steps to regain the trust of the international community. Pull back its troops from Ukraine’s borders, and enter a sincere dialogue respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty,” he said.
He highlighted Nato’s clear interest in the security and stability of its Eastern neighbourhood and Nato’s unwavering commitment to collective security, the statement said.
“Nato is taking legitimate steps to deal with the instability created by Russia’s illegitimate actions. Including how we can co-operate more closely here in the Black Sea region. These steps are fully in line with our international commitments, and with Nato’s fundamental purpose; to defend our Allies and deter against any threat”, he said.
As Nato prepares for the Wales Summit in September, Fogh Rasmussen emphasised that Allies must stop the decline of defence budgets and start reversing the trend. He called on Bulgaria to continue working with Allies in the region to acquire critical modern capabilities, including aircraft, the statement said.
Bulgaria currently is using an ageing fleet of Soviet-made fighter aircraft. Several governments have discussed the issue of acquiring new fighters, with no clear result. SAAB Gripen has offered new fighter jets, other countries have offered second-hand F-16s and Eurofighters, while according to unconfirmed reports in Bulgarian-language media on April 11, Russia is interested in selling new MiG fighters to Bulgaria.