Bulgaria Won’t Be Part of NATO Fleet in Black Sea, Premier Says

  • Romanian President calls for joint Black Sea fleet iniative
  • NATO navy bases on Black Sea coast will hurt tourism: Borissov

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov rejected a Romanian call for North Atlantic Treaty Organization to set up a permanent Black Sea fleet in response to Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine on grounds it will increase military tension and hurt tourism.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis discussed with Borissov and Bulgarian counterpart Rosen Plevneliev proposing the joint initiative that would include Romania, Ukraine, Turkey and Bulgaria, at a NATO summit in Warsaw in July. Borissov said the move would “turn the Black Sea into a territory of war” and that he “wants to see cruising yachts, and tourists, rather than warships.”

“To send warships as a fleet against the Russian ships exceeds the limit of what I can allow,” Borissov told reporters in Sofia on Thursday. “To deploy destroyers, aircraft carriers near Bourgas or Varna during the tourist season is unacceptable.”

Russia’s 2014 takeover of Crimea and proxy war in eastern Ukraine near NATO territory led the U.S. to rotate troops into eastern Europe and prompted the alliance to set up a 5,000-man rapid-response force that can mobilize within days. To allay fears in former Soviet-bloc nations that they’re vulnerable to attack, the alliance decided this week to deploy a multinational group of 4,000 troops in Poland and the three Baltic nations, all of which border Russia.

According to a 1936 Montreux Convention, countries which don’t have a Black Sea coastline can’t keep their warships there for more than 21 days. NATO members Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria are all Black Sea basin countries. Russia has its own Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea.

Drills, Resorts

Bulgaria hosts a U.S. base, takes part in joint NATO military drills and has troops in Afghanistan, Borissov said. The government is prepared to send 400 ground troops on rotational training as part of NATO brigade that may be deployed in neighboring Romania, he said. The European Union’s poorest state plans to spend 2.3 billion lev ($1.3 billion) to replace outdated Soviet-era armament with new warships and fighters jets.

Bulgarian resorts, spread along the 350-kilometer (217 mile) Black Sea coastline made the bulk of the 2.9 billion-euro ($3.25 billion) tourism revenue last year, or 11 percent of economic output.

“Russia won’t attack Bulgaria with tanks and missiles,” Borissov said citing historical ties based on the Christian Orthodoxy religion the two countries share. “Their actions on Bulgarian territory are different, mostly economic.”

Bulgaria will ask NATO ships to guard the Bulgarian coast only in the case of “a huge refugee wave crossing the Black Sea, should their route across the Aegean and the Mediterranean be closed,” Borissov said, referring to the migrants seeking refuge in western Europe amid continuing war in Syria.

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