Bulgaria’s government is to review the state of the security services and projects for the modernisation of the country’s military, it was agreed at a May 30 meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security.
At the same time, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has insisted that there is “no conflict” between him and President Roumen Radev on the issue of the acquisition of new multi-role jet fighters for the Bulgarian Air Force.
The Consultative Council on National Security is convened by the President as head of its state. Participants in its meetings include the President, Prime Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the ministers of defence, interior, foreign affairs and finance, the Defence Chief and representatives of political parties represented in the National Assembly.
This was the first meeting of the council called by Radev since he took office as Bulgaria’s head of state and armed forces commander-in-chief in January 2017.
At the meeting, participants agreed that the shortfall of personnel in the security services, and especially in the armed forces, should be solved. Currently, this shortfall adds up to about 5000 people.
At the same time, specific plans will be developed for the accelerated implementation of the modernisation projects, among which there are no priority ones. This contradicts a statement by Borissov, who just days ago said that the project to buy new fighters is not a priority.
Speaking after the meeting, Radev said that he was “extremely satisfied” that all those who took part had been responsible and constructive in the discussions.
Radev said that important reports were made concerning the risks and threats to national security, the state of the structures and bodies of the national security system and the necessary measures to strengthen the sovereignty of the state.
The meeting had agreed that “the modern security environment is extremely dynamic, saturated with continually changing challenges,” Radev said.
Borissov said that an update of the national security strategy had been agreed. He noted that 2024 was the deadline for government spending on defence to reach two per cent of GDP (a commitment that Bulgaria has undertaken as a Nato member).
“In the modernization of the army, we need to use innovation, to use the scientists who have come up with some great developments at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, to be carried out in Bulgaria.” This was a great resource and would create many jobs, according to Borissov.
“Not only did we agree with the opinion of President Rumen Radev, but we also had a constructive dialogue,” he said.
Borissov said that there was no conflict between him on Radev about the modernisation of the armed forces.
In recent days, Borissov has hinted at years of delay on the jet fighter acquisition, describing it as not a priority and indicating that this was less important than acquiring new navy patrol boats and armoured vehicles for the land forces.
This earned Borissov a public rebuke from Radev, a former air force commander who at one point in 2015 submitted his resignation, saying that the state of the air force left him unable to fulfil his duties.
Borissov went on to say that military doctrines showed that no war could be won without infantry.
“These are trade negotiations, whether it be tanks, whether carriers, whether it is about ships, it does not matter,” he said. There were companies in several countries that produced them and earned a lot of money doing so, he said.
Borissov said that there were countries that had achieved a deferral of 15 to 20 years in payments for aircraft, naval vessels or vehicles.
“We have no argument with the president that new aircraft, tanks and everything else are needed,” Borissov said.
Negotiations needed to be held. “The only task that they (the negotiators) will get from me,” he said, was to ensure that payments stretched over 15 to 20 years.
It was possible not only to modernise the air fleet, but also the equipment of the land forces and the naval vessels.
Borissov reiterated what he had said a few days earlier, that “if you go to the navy, you will see that a special concrete has been filled in on the bottom of the ships, so that they do not sink”.
Krassimir Karakachanov, Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, and a co-leader of the nationalist United Patriots that is the minority partner in Borissov’s Cabinet, said that there was more than one great danger and what was needed for both the armed forces and the security services needed to be ready to cope with these dangers.
On a somewhat different tack, Kornelia Ninova, leader of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, said that it was an “omission” that the May 30 meeting of the council had not discussed internal security issues such as smuggling, deteriorating health care, illiteracy, the deterioration of the education system and domestic crime.
She had received an assurance from President Radev that these internal security issues would be discussed at the next meeting of the council, Ninova said, oddly going on to blame Borissov for the fact that these issues were not discussed at the May 30 meeting.