By Tom Squitieri, Talk Media News
WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Bulgaria militaries inked a 10-year agreement for military cooperation Tuesday, adding momentum to the Pentagon’s effort to create a greater check on Russian adventurism in the Black Sea region.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Bulgarian defense minister Krasimir Karakachanov signed the agreement during a rare open press event at the Pentagon. The agreement gives the United States military access to and shared use of several Bulgarian military facilities. The access facilitates joint training between the U.S. and Bulgarian militaries.
“I am confident we will continue to advance our shared security interests,” Esper said. He said the agreement underscores
“the critical role that Bulgaria plays in protecting NATO’s eastern flank.”
Karakachanov showed his enthusiasm more through gestures than speaking, as he admitted his voice was low and weak as he had been smoking heavily. However, he did thank the U.S. for F-16 fighter purchases and said Bulgaria hopes to soon buy F-35 fighters.
“This is yet another step the United States and Bulgaria are taking in their defense cooperation,” Karakachanov said.
In July 2019, Bulgaria bought eight new F-16 fighters for $1.256 billion, its biggest military purchase since the fall of Communism.
The Pentagon began to increase support and investments in Bulgaria and Romania in 2019 as part of NATO’s effort to improve its capacities on the southeast front of the Balkans. The 2019 Pentagon budget had almost $27 million for investment in the two nations.
It also set the groundwork for continual rotational troops deployments to Romania and Bulgaria and training with the national forces a Camp Mihail Kogalniceanu in Romania and Novo Selo Training Area in Bulgaria. In Bulgaria, the Pentagon initial investment of $5.2 million went to modernize the Novo Selo Training Range, less than an hour from the Black Sea resort of Burgas.
The Novo Selo Training Area is among the joint US-Bulgarian military bases established according to a 2006 Defense Cooperation Agreement between the two countries. It had already garnered a $61million investment program for new housing and related infrastructure for U.S. troops training.
Esper visited the site when he was Secretary of the Army.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Alexander Sturdivant)