A national security report adopted by Bulgaria’s Cabinet that named Russia as one of the main foreign policy risks caused a stormy reaction among political parties in the National Assembly on September 13.
According to the report, which is yet to be debated by Parliament’s committee and in plenary, “the actions of Russia as a source of regional instability also threatens our basic goal of a united, free and peaceful Europe”.
This riled the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, lineal successor to the communist party whose regime held Bulgaria in the closest orbit to the Kremlin, and which continues to favour what it calls a “balanced” policy towards Moscow.
The BSP’s Anton Kutev called the statements in the national security report a “gross mistake”.
Kutev said that the past few governments had showed a propensity for anti-Russian sentiments.
“I have said repeatedly that Bulgarian politicians should speak Russian and English equally well,” he said. Maintaining good relations with Russia would not mean giving up on Bulgaria’s Euro-Atlantic direction, Kutev said.
On the contrary, Bulgaria, as a member of Nato, could be a “bridge” between Russia and the other world powers, “and we must, because we have a common history”.
Stanislav Stanilov, of the nationalist United Patriots – the minority partner in government and which has internal divisions over Russophilia and Russophobia – said that the report was the “usual Nato nonsense”.
Russia was surrounded by Nato bases and “who does it threaten?” Stanilov said.
But another United Patriots MP, Milen Mihov, said that the report’s section on Russia “frankly and faithfully” reflected the threats to national security.
Mustafa Karadaya, leader of the opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the fourth-largest group in Bulgaria’s five-group Parliament, said that Bulgaria was part of the Nato and the EU, “and we have to take this into account, and Nato-Russia, EU-Russia relations cannot not but influence us”.
Tsvetan Tsvetanov, leader of the parliamentary group of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party, said that he had not yet read the report in detail and it had not yet been considered by Parliament’s committees.
“What I can say is that we are satisfied with naming things with their real names,” Tsvetanov said, adding that the statement may have been taken out of context.
“We all see what happened in the US, in France, of course, we were not overlooked in Bulgaria regarding everything that was done in the presidential campaign,” he said, referring to the 2016 Bulgarian presidential election that GERB’s candidate lost to opposition BSP-backed Roumen Radev.
GERB MP Anton Todorov said that the report would not harm relations between Bulgaria and Russia.
He described it as a “great report” that pointed out one of Bulgaria’s problems, the hybrid war. He said that, however, the number of Russian tourists visiting Bulgaria was on the rise.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)