US ambassador: Bulgaria was not pressured to choose the F-16
No pressure was exerted on Bulgaria to choose the F-16, United States ambassador Eric Rubin said in a television interview.
Bulgaria’s Parliament voted in January 2019 to mandate the government to negotiate with the US on the acquisition of F-16s, following a recommendation by a political-military committee that chose this option over Sweden’s offer of new Gripens and Italy’s offer of second-hand Eurofighters.
Recent political controversy over the decision has included President Roumen Radev, a regular critic of the government, alleging that the choice was the result of “lobbyism”.
“This is a sovereign Bulgarian decision, Bulgaria is a sovereign state, our partner and ally, a member of Nato and the EU. Bulgaria took this decision by itself,” Rubin said in an interview with bTV.
“We believe that the decision to start negotiations with us was the correct decision, we applaud it, but never was pressure applied,” he said.
“From the point of view of the US government and Lockheed Martin, the F-16 manufacturer, I categorically declare that there was no lobbying. We were very transparent, Lockheed Martin held a public news conference here, where all the media were invited.
“The US government, in our negotiations with Bulgaria, has indeed encouraged Bulgaria to modernise its army, but at no time has it put pressure or there has been any wrongdoing.
“In the end, what we saw was a vote in the democratic parliament, the democratically elected parliament of Bulgaria, which is a parliamentary republic, with a substantial majority to continue negotiations with the F-16. There is no way to be more transparent and democratic,” he said.
The final price of the acquisition would be determined in the process of finalising the negotiations, Rubin said.
“We have very clearly stated that our final offer will meet our understanding of Bulgaria’s needs, its operational and financial needs, and that the final price will be tailored to Bulgaria’s needs, understanding Bulgaria’s constraints as well as operational needs, this is very important.
“Secondly, I do not accept and do not think anyone on our side accepts that this plane is more expensive than the alternatives. It is true that the original price will be comparatively higher than that for the other fighters that are available, but this price includes everything – training, maintenance,nfrastructure, also includes relations with the United States in the future, which will continue for decades,” he said.