- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- All Balkan Countries
A freshly leaked US diplomatic cable shows that the US took an active role in influencing the modernisation of Bulgaria's armed forces.
The document, entitled "Strategy to Shape Bulgaria's Military Modernization" was sent on October 29, 2007, by John Beyrle, then US Ambassador to Sofia, and stresses the importance of improving Bulgaria's ability to fight with US and NATO forces overseas.
In the cable, Ambassador Beyrle writes that a decision of the Stanishev government to revise Bulgaria's "Plan 2015" military modernization roadmap represents an important opportunity for the US to influence the development of Bulgarian military capabilities over the medium and long-term.
Beyrle argues that the US should help Bulgaria boost its capacity to deploy forces on missions abroad rather than invest its limited resources in the purchase of expensive weapon systems.
"Our primary goal is increase Bulgaria's capacity to deploy and fight interoperably with U.S. and NATO forces overseas. Given its very limited resources, we advocate for larger investments for Bulgarian Land Forces, since the purchase of additional armored vehicles, body armor, training, personal gear and communications equipment will have a greater and more immediate impact on deployability than the procurement of new fighters or ships," the cable reads.
"We argue Bulgaria should be steered away from massive procurements on new air and naval systems and toward slightly older, perhaps used systems of intermediate complexity, which would allow Bulgarian servicemembers to more quickly master new technologies and thus become interoperable partners more quickly," it adds.
The document says that senior officials from the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense warned the US embassy privately that the government was planning to reduce military expenditures from approximately 2.5 per cent of GDP to 2.1 per cent or lower over the coming years, which "makes the prioritization of modernization projects and careful allocation of scarce resources even more critical for Bulgaria."
"We plan to present the government of Bulgaria with the following proposals and to use these points as the basis for our advocacy in guiding Bulgarian planners toward a modernization vision that best matches our shared interests. These proposals are intended to complement and reinforce, not replace NATO force goals, and to guide the Bulgarians toward key procurement decisions which will improve their ability to meet these goals," Beyrle wrote to the State Department.
The listed US priorities focus on boosting the deployability capacities of the Bulgarian forces, elimination of outdated defense equipment, avoiding "budget-busting mega-procurements", and maintaining certain niche capabilities of the Bulgarian military.
"Although Bulgaria possesses nearly 40,000 servicemembers, it has no means to deploy and very limited means to sustain forces outside its borders... These realities represent the most basic limitations to increased Bulgarian commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The highest priority should be placed on encouraging Bulgaria to invest in the equipment, vehicles and weapons that will enable them to deploy and fight interoperably with U.S. and NATO forces overseas," the diplomatic cable explains.
With respect to seeking to steer Bulgaria away from major arms procurement projects, the document points out that "Bulgaria has been under intense pressure from France to sign a massive ship procurement deal worth over one billion dollars.
"While modernization of the Navy remains a goal, we will continue to advocate against Bulgaria spending an amount greater than its annual defense budget on this single procurement, particularly since this purchase exceeds Bulgaria's operational requirements and will not address its own stated top priority of improving Bulgaria's ability to deploy and sustain troops outside its borders."
The US embassy planned to encourage officials in Sofia "to fence off funds for requirements essential to overseas deployments, such as armored vehicles, body armor, training, personal gear and communications equipment."
Beyrle also mentions that Bulgaria's current fighter force has reached the end of its useful life but that the USA will seek to discourage Bulgaria from buying Russian aircraft as well as new Eurofighter, Swedish Gripen, and Joint Strike Fighter in favour of older versions of US-produced F-16 or F-18.
"Bulgaria should be steered away from the purchase of additional Russian fighters, which are currently an obstacle to Bulgaria's transformation to a more operationally and tactically flexible organization as expected by NATO. A slightly older, perhaps used aircraft of intermediate complexity, would allow Bulgarian pilots to quickly master new systems and immediately become interoperable partners."
An illicit Serbian arms dealer's sale of weapons to the Yemeni government, and Bulgaria's plans to sign an arms deal with the country caused concern for American diplomats, Wikileaks reveals.
Donors spent hundreds of thousands of euro building a new museum in Gjirokastra - but the results were questionable and it ultimately closed over an ideological dispute.