Bulgaria’s PM in talks with Nato chief on Russian troop build-up on Ukraine’s border

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov discussed the continuing build-up of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine in a video call with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on February 2, the government information service in Sofia said.

“The view was shared that diplomatic efforts to de-escalate must continue, but at the same time the Alliance must be prepared for a possible deterioration of the situation,” the Bulgarian government statement on the Petkov-Stoltenberg talks said.

It said that Petkov informed Stoltenberg about the Bulgarian’s government decision to contribute to collective defence by forming a Bulgarian battalion battle group, with the possibility to fill the deficits of Nato member countries, if necessary.

“In the course of the conversation, the guiding principle in Nato was reaffirmed – every decision must be supported by society and the government in the respective member state,” the Bulgarian government statement said.

A day earlier, on February 1, Bulgaria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Irena Dimitrova held talks with Ukraine’s ambassador in Sofia, Vitaly Moskalenko, a Bulgarian Foreign Ministry statement said.

The two discussed tensions over Ukraine, as well as joint EU-Nato efforts to de-escalate through diplomatic means, the statement said.

In the course of the conversation, areas for intensifying the co-operation between Bulgaria and Ukraine were outlined, the Foreign Ministry said.

Bulgaria expressed its support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, the statement said.

Bulgaria’s support for Ukraine’s closer political association and economic integration with the EU was also confirmed, the statement said.

Bulgaria, a member of Nato since 2004, is to receive additional air policing support from the Netherlands and Spain.

The country has been the subject of calls from the Kremlin for Nato military forces to leave it. In a television interview on February 1, Russia’s ambassador in Sofia said that her country was not calling for Bulgaria to quit Nato. From her remarks, it was not immediately clear how Bulgaria remaining a member of the Alliance while hosting no personnel from the Alliance could be reconciled.

Bulgaria hosts no permanent presence of forces from other Nato countries, though it has a long-standing agreement on joint use of military bases in Bulgaria with the US. According to recent statements in Parliament by Defence Minister Stefan Yanev, currently there are just more than 200 US military personnel in Bulgaria, for a joint military training exercise.

The Petkov-Stoltenberg talks on February 2 came as, as Deutsche Welle reported, US President Joe Biden approved the deployment of additional forces in eastern Europe, according to US media reports.

Under the plan, the US will reportedly send about 2000 American troops to Poland and Germany, while 1000 troops would move from Germany to Romania, DW said.

Meanwhile, the Voice of America reported that the Kremlin is ramping up a disinformation offensive aimed at demoralizing Ukraine and Western powers, using Russian state-owned broadcasters and trolls on social media platforms to portray the West as the aggressor and the government in Kyiv as a puppet of Nato, according to Western officials and information war experts.

Scare stories in recent days have included claims that Ukrainian commandos are planning to launch so-called “false flag” attacks in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine to justify Nato military action and that the US is planning to attack Russia during this week’s Winter Olympics in China, VOA said.

(Photo of an earlier meeting between Petkov and Stoltenberg: Nato)

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