Defence Minister: Bulgaria among Nato countries meeting criterion of 2% of GDP for defence

Bulgaria is among the 18 Nato countries that meet the criterion of allocating 2 per cent of GDP to defence, Defence Minister Todor Tagarev said on February 15 in Brussels, where he is participating on a meeting of the alliance’s defence ministers.

“We are at two per cent with the planned budget for this year and in each of the following years until 2032,” Bulgarian National Television reported Tagarev as saying.

“About a third of this budget is for investment in new capabilities, which is received quite well by our allies,” he said.

In connection with Donald Trump’s statements that he would encourage Russia to attack if Nato member countries do not pay, Tagarev said: “Mr. Trump is in an election campaign and his position is completely understandable.

“All countries made such a commitment already at the summit in 2014, that is, 10 years ago, and the fact that some have not yet achieved this two per cent is disturbing. We all have to shoulder the burden together,” Tagarev said.

“The commitment in Nato is categorical and this morning it was repeated several times that not a single square centimetre of Nato territory will be allowed to be given to someone else, to an aggressor country for example,” he said.

Tagarev said that plans are to allocate 2.4 per cent of GDP for defence by 2026.

“Since there are large payments under concluded contracts, we are still working to conclude new contracts, to start the process of rearmament, on a larger scale, on a wider front, as we have to catch up on a backlog of decades,” he said.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on February 15: “Today, Nato defence ministers will meet to address our support to Ukraine, and how to further strengthen our deterrence and defence. 

“And to do both, we need to invest more, and we are on the right track. Because we now have historic numbers when it comes to defence investments,” he said.

Stoltenberg said that in 2023, there had been an 11 per cent real increase in defence spending across Europe and Canada.

“This year, we expect 18 Allies to meet the target of spending two per cent of GDP on defence. And European Allies together spend $280 billion on defence. And this is two per cent of their combined GDP.

“But we still have a way to go. Because at our Summit in Vilnius last year, all Allies promised to spend two per cent of GDP on defence, and two per cent is a minimum,” Stoltenberg said.

He said that he would on February 15 chair a meeting of the Nato Ukraine Council.

“We will address how to sustain our support to Ukraine. We see that our support is making a difference on the battlefield every day. Just yesterday, the Ukrainians were able to strike successfully a Russian naval ship, and this demonstrates the skills and the competence of Ukrainian armed forces, also in conducting deep strikes behind the Russian lines,” Stoltenberg said.

“To ensure that Ukraine gets the weapons, the supplies, the ammunitions they need, we need to ramp up production. And Nato Allies have, just over the last month – since we agreed the defence investment plan – agreed and signed contracts for 10 billion euro, for more orders from different parts of the transatlantic defence industry.”

He welcomed that Nato Allies are providing more support, more air defence and more ammunition.

“I welcome the decision by the European Union to allocate 50 billion euro to Ukraine, and I expect the US Congress to agree a package of continued support to Ukraine. Because supporting Ukraine is not charity. Supporting Ukraine is an investment in our own security.”

Asked about the recent statement by the US government that Ukraine is running out of ammunition, Stoltenberg said: “We see the impact already of the fact that the US has not been able to make a decision but I expect the US to be able to make a decision, that the Congress and the House of Representatives will agree a continued support to Ukraine because if we allow President Putin to win it will not only be bad for the Ukrainians, a tragedy for the Ukrainians but it will also be dangerous for us.

“It will make the world even more dangerous for us and leave us more vulnerable therefore this is our security interest to do so,” Stoltenberg said.

Asked about Trump’s statement that Nato’s Article 5 would would only apply to nations that hit their defence spending target, he said: “Article 5, the commitment to defend all Allies and that an attack on one Ally will be regarded as an attack on all is the core of Nato, is the heart of Nato and of course that applies for all Allies because we know that any suggestion that we are not there to protect and defend all Allies will undermine the security of all of us and put at risk our soldiers, our personnel who are on the front lines to protect the whole Alliance.

“So one for all, all for one applies for all Allies and is the heart of Nato,” Stoltenberg said.

(Photo of Tagarev: Ministry of Defence)

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