A team from the United States is expected to arrive in Bulgaria within days for talks on possible US military bases, Defence Minister Nikolai Svinarov told a news conference on May 17. Svinarov’s announcement on May 17 confirmed a statement by Bulgarian armed forces chief Nikola Kolev made a few days earlier. “Bulgaria also hopes to get support for the modernisation of its army – rather than financial remuneration – in exchange for the use of its military facilities,” Svinarov said. “A decision when the foreign bases will start operating in Bulgaria will be taken by Parliament under national law.” He said he expected such a decision by the end of this year. (Sofia Echo, May 23) Graf Ignatievo, Bezmer, Novo Selo and Sarafovo airport, near Burgas on the Black Sea coast, are named as locations for the new US bases. (Sofia News Agency, May 18)
Meanwhile, Bulagaria has been chosen as another pipeline route for bringing Caspian Basin oil to global markets. Bulagria’s vice president Plamen Panayiotov assured reporters that no matter who wins in the June 25 parliamentary elections, work will continue on the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, which is to link the Black Sea port of Burgas with an outlet on the Greek Mediterranean coast. (Macedonian Press Agency, May 23) Note that Burgas is also where one of the new US bases is planned. Readers will recall that Caspian pipeline routes were a critical background issue in the recent revolution in Ukraine.
Romania is also negotiating with the Bush administration to host U.S. military bases, with Defense Minister Teodor Atanasiu hoping to reach an agreement by the end of the month. Discussions include the financing needed to build the bases and determining each side’s obligations, which would be smaller, operational facilities and not large facilities like the U.S. bases in Germany. The Pentagon has already used a Romanian air base near the Black Sea port of Constanta during the offensives in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with a terminal in the port. The Romanian offer would include Constanta along with other facilities. (UPI, May 19)
The U.S. and Azerbaijani governments on April 12 agreed on the deployment of U.S. military bases in Azerbaijan, the Baku newspaper Echo reported, citing the U.S.-Israeli strategic analysis and forecast center Stratfor. “These forces will start to be brought into the country this year, and taking into account the huge significance of the Caucasus region for the U.S., the American military presence here will be long-term. Moreover, the first U.S. units will arrive in Azerbaijan within the next several weeks,” reads the May 21 article in Echo. Citing sources in the Azerbaijani government, Stratfor analysts said Washington and Baku reached the final agreement on this issue during U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s low-profile visit to the Azerbaijani capital on April 12. Under the agreement, the U.S. forces will be deployed in Kurdamir, Nasosnaya and Guyullah. Various types of aircraft will be deployed at all the three bases, which have runways modernized for U.S. military needs. (Interfax, May 23)
Leaders cannot be happy about these developments in Moscow or Belarus.
NOTE: Bulgaria has a troop contingent in Iraq, and has lost 10 soldiers there. Other post-Soviet-sphere nations which have lost troops in Iraq are Ukraine (18), Poland (17), Slovakia (3), Estonia (2), and Hungary, Kazakhstan and Latvia (one each). (AP, May 23)