Nato defence ministers are to decide at a meeting in Brussels on February 5 on deploying alliance command centres in Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
This is according to a report by Bulgarian National Radio, quoting remarks by Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at a January 30 briefing in Brussels.
The report quoted Stoltenberg as saying that the command structures would be the first of their kind in the six countries of the alliance in Eastern Europe.
The command centres would be responsible for planning and organising exercises and communication of command activities.
During Stoltenberg’s visit to Sofia on January 22, he and Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev discussed the importance of implementing Nato’s Readiness Plan, in light of challenges to the east and south of the alliance, a Nato statement said at the time.
“Implementing the plan is our highest priority,” Stoltenberg said, noting that it will “make our forces more ready and better able to respond to challenges from any direction”.
Stoltenberg said that “Bulgaria has an important role to play,” highlighting the importance of Nato’s high readiness force and planned command and control elements in the east of the alliance, the statement said.
He emphasised that “all the measures taken by Nato are defensive, proportional, and in line with our international commitments”.
Speaking during question time in Parliament on January 30, Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev said that a Nato command and control centre would probably be located in Sofia, but a decision had not yet been made.
He said that half of the staff of the centre would be service personnel from Nato member states.
The Defence Ministry had never considered the possible building of a Nato command centre and military base near Shabla, a town in north-eastern Bulgaria not far from the Romanian border, nor on the territory of Dobrich region, and there was no such decision, Nenchev told Parliament.
Separately, Stars and Stripes reported that US Army Europe will soon dispatch a survey team to eastern Europe to scout locations for tanks and other military hardware as part of a broader effort to bolster the US military presence in a region rattled by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.
“We are doing surveys here in the next few weeks up in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria to see if there is a place where perhaps some of that equipment could be stored there,” USAREUR chief Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges said in an interview with Stars and Stripes.