|09SOFIA506||2009-09-10 16:18:00||CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN||Embassy Sofia|
VZCZCXYZ0005 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHSF #0506/01 2531618 ZNY CCCCC ZZH (CCY ADX0AEBDAC MSI7233) O 101618Z SEP 09 FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6307 INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE RUEADWD/DA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE IMMEDIATE RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SOFIA 000506
1. (C/NF) SUMMARY. Bulgaria would see a major reduction in
U.S. forces in Europe as a sign of U.S. disengagement from
European security during a period of growing concern over
stability in the Western Balkans, Caucasus and Black Sea
region. Partnership with the United States has been the
bedrock of Bulgarian security policy through successive
governments. The basis of this partnership is frequent
U.S.-Bulgaria military exercises at our joint facilities and
regular contact between service members in Bulgaria and the
United States -- all of which is already threatened by the
current shortage of U.S. troops available for training. A
drawdown of U.S. troops in Europe will lead to reduced
participation in joint exercises and cancellation of plans to
station U.S. forces at the Task Force-East bases on regular
rotations. This reduction in presence will unavoidably delay
Bulgaria's development into a fully interoperable ally and
likely lead to a decline in contributions to overseas
missions. It will also cast doubts on the permanency of the
U.S. commitment to NATO and could lead to a rethinking of
Bulgaria's broader strategic orientation. END SUMMARY.
BEYOND ARTICLE FIVE
2. (C/NF) Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 as part of a broad
effort to show itself to be a fully European country. Unlike
other Eastern European allies, for historical reasons
Bulgaria's population looks more favorably on Russia and does
not see Moscow as a direct territorial threat. Bulgarian
leaders are less concerned that a drawdown in Europe will
prevent the U.S. from responding forcefully to an Article 5
contingency. Rather, they worry about a gradual U.S.
disengagement from Europe and the lack of will to respond to
crises at the region's borders. Bulgaria is keenly aware
that security gains in Bosnia and Kosovo could disintegrate
rapidly, a development that would be devastating to Bulgaria
as it relies heavily on transport routes through the Western
Balkans. The Bulgarian government sees active and consistent
U.S. engagement in the Black Sea as similarly essential to
3. (C/NF) While Bulgaria does not view Russia as a direct
threat, its leaders readily acknowledge concern over Russia's
intentions in the regions around its borders. Bulgaria is
concerned that a significantly reduced U.S. presence in
Europe could curtail our capacity and willingness to mediate
regional issues or prevent minor conflicts from escalating.
4. (C/NF) In 2006, two years after entering NATO, Bulgaria
signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement allowing the permanent
stationing of up to 2,500 U.S. service members on four bases.
For a country that did not allow such a privilege to Soviet
troops during the Cold War era, this was an historic policy
decision and a decisive step in solidifying the United States
as Bulgaria's preeminent security partner. To date, however,
a shortage of U.S. troops available for joint training has
prevented full utilization of these facilities.
5. (C/NF) The Bulgarian military's training plan is now fully
dependent on its joint exercises with us and it relies on
these exercises to meet force goals and prepare for overseas
missions. U.S. investment in construction and upgrades to
the joint facilities in Bulgaria is expected to exceed USD
100 million. It is not clear how the United States could
achieve a substantial return on investment should a major
drawdown in U.S. forces take place. Moreover, once the
facilities are complete in 2011, the Bulgarians expect a
significant increase in joint training opportunities.
Bulgaria's leaders across the political spectrum have bucked
public opinion to support the bases, and now they face a
disappointing result, likely to be seen as further evidence
of U.S. disengagement from the region.
SEE YOU IN KABUL
6. (C/NF) Bulgarian overseas military operations, particularly
in Afghanistan, are predicated on U.S. assistance, training
and joint exercises. U.S. assistance helps to ensure that
troops are properly equipped, and joint exercises help ensure
that soldiers are adequately prepared for coalition
operations once they arrive in theater. The Bulgarian
government does not view overseas missions as a quid pro quo
for U.S. assistance and joint exercises, and Bulgaria would
almost certainly continue with some very low level of
participation in NATO operations even without the benefit of
U.S. training. It is inevitable, however, that a significant
reduction in training opportunities would lead to a
substantial decrease in the size, capabilities and impact of
Bulgarian forces in overseas missions.
7. (C/NF) Bulgaria is a proud NATO member, but to a large
extent it sees NATO as a means to keep the United States
engaged in European security. Like other Eastern European
countries, it worries that a sharp reduction in the U.S.
presence in Europe would reduce NATO to a "talk shop" or
"political club". It puts much greater stock in its
bilateral security relationship with the United States than
in NATO-level political engagement, and is wary of
ever-increasing NATO contribution requests paired with
decreasing U.S. support. For Bulgaria, deployments to
Afghanistan are linked both operationally and politically
with U.S. engagement. The Bulgarians see joint U.S-Bulgaria
deployments as the result of a long-term joint training
program; they are not prepared for a scenario where the only
time they see U.S. forces is in Afghanistan.
8. (C/NF) COMMENT: In 2011, when construction at the joint
facilities in Bulgaria is complete, the United States will
have a modern, flexible location for training at a strategic
intersection between the Black Sea and the Western Balkans.
Due primarily to a shortage of U.S. service members available
for training, these bases are not used to their full
potential, and there is no road map for how to rectify this.
A reduction in our Europe-based forces would ensure that
these facilities remain permanently underutilized. Bulgaria
believes it can contribute to NATO operations in Afghanistan,
and also believes that the joint bases it hosts can play a
positive role in achieving NATO's goal of creating a Europe
whole, free and at peace with itself. Both are dependent
upon regular U.S. military engagement here and a robust U.S.
presence in Europe as a whole.