Rotogravure in Washington: Trump meets Borissov

Bulgarian media reported, with some breathlessness, that should US President Donald Trump receive an invitation to visit Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia, he would accept.

This much emerged as Trump received visiting Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov at the White House, “warmly” we are told.

No doubt, a soft occasion, receiving the leader of a government who is stumping up a substantial shake from his Budget to purchase F-16s from a US company, and who had little to bring but the latest in a long line of pleas for visa exemption for Bulgarian citizens, and his own warm words on the topic of US-Bulgarian relations.

A welcome photo opportunity, a passing distraction from the annoyingly persistent topic of impeachment proceedings trundling their way through the House, set for inevitable immolation in a Republican-controlled Senate.

There was another cheap shot, perhaps not immediately recognised as such, from the Oval Office which Trump occupies, so those Bulgarian media reports from DC went. Bulgaria, so Trump was reported as saying, could be an example to Germany, for the fact that Bulgaria was to exceed three per cent of GDP in defence spending. We have heard so much, from Trump at his disingenuous worst, on the topic of contributions to spending on the collective defence of the Alliance. We leave that here to easily-accessible fact-checkers, and those who, unlike Trump, are being honest with the facts.

A drearily familiar narrative from the Trump White House, and its occupant’s studied wilful neglect for the realities of quite how defence spending in the Nato context works. In all, appears to be the operative phrase.

Borissov, we are told by Bulgarian National Television, expressed satisfaction with the co-operation between Bulgaria and the US in the fields of defence, energy and the economy.

Trump, by the same report, described bilateral relations between the US and Bulgaria as “very strong”.

“Great people,” Trump said in reference to Bulgarians.

“Many people from Bulgaria are in our country, many of them live in this country, they become US citizens. We will talk about the visa issue raised by your Prime Minister. But we have very good co-operation.”

The visa issue. It has been a hardy annual for many, many years. For visa exemption for the US, Bulgaria needs to fall below a certain threshold of visa refusals. Currently, it does not, though lately it has been doing better. But still beyond the threshold that would permit the US Congress to vote, by its own laws, exemption. A long succession of US ambassadors, US officials, Bulgarian ambassadors and officials, have rehearsed this issue. On November 25, in the Oval Office, it seems, it was rehearsed once more.

“It is an exceptional honour and privilege for me to hold our meeting in the White House – a symbol of freedom and democracy,” Borissov said, hours after Bulgarian-language media reported that he was the first Prime Minister in his country’s democratic age to set foot in the Oval Office for a second time.

In his talks with Trump, Borissov outlined the constructive interaction between the two countries on the preparation and conclusion of the contract for the acquisition of F-16 Block 70 fighter jets.

Borissov also noted the co-operation between Bulgaria and the US in the field of energy, in the context of national security, so the reports from Washington DC said.

Borissov also highlighted the projects that Bulgaria is working hard on, that will contribute to the diversification of energy sources and routes.

Another topic highlighted by Borissov, so BNT reported, was the importance of trade and economic relations between Bulgaria and the US.

Borissov said that US investors are welcome in Bulgaria and indicated the aspiration of Bulgaria to promote high-tech industries. He pointed out Bulgaria’s advantages as an investment destination.

Borissov expressed Bulgaria’s interest in deepening its co-operation with the US in a number of other areas such as education, science, promoting tourism and human contacts.

On the Twitter feed of Donald Trump, that fodder of astonishment, satire, reprehensible views, and unpalatable incoherence, there was scant on the occasion of the meeting with the Bulgarian leader. A Rotogravure, in its day, was noted for the high speed of what it could produce. That technology of old produced something of substance. In doing so, it compares well with our present day.



Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.