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2021, vol. 55, br. 1, str. 56-76
Bugarska i kriza u Ukrajini - nacionalni interesi i političke institucije
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Sofia, Bulgaria

e-adresaP_Cholakov@yahoo.com
Ključne reči: Bugarska i kriza u Ukrajini; Rusija i političke partije u Bugarskoj (2013-2020); ruski energetski projekti i bugarska politika
Sažetak
Ukrajinska kriza je arena geopolitičkog sukoba u kojem se prepliću interesi Rusije, NATO i EU. Ponašanje bugarskih političkih institucija mora se analizirati upravo u ovom kontekstu. U prvom odeljku istražujem reakcije i stavove bugarske vlade, glavnih političkih partija i predsednika o ukrajinskoj krizi. U drugom delu ističem alatke koje Rusija koristi da bi uticala na bugarske političke institucije i procese. Treći deo bavi se merama koje su preduzele Sjedinjene Američke Države i EU da bi neutralisale uticaj Rusije. Zastupam stav da Sofija treba da bude doslednija u ispunjavanju svojih obaveza prema NATO i EU.

Introduction

The term 'Ukrainian crisis' describes a series of events: the Euromaidan protests against President Yanukovych, which called for Ukraine's integration into the EU (2013–2014), the change of power in Kyiv (2014) and the subsequent Russian "reaction" (the "annexation" of Crimea, "русская весна" – the "Russian spring" in Donetsk, Luhansk, etc.). Every crisis reflects a state of conflict, violent or not (Brecher, 1996, p. 128). In my opinion, the armed conflict between the pro-Russian rebels and Kyiv, which began in 2014 and continues to this day (despite the Minsk agreements and sporadic ceasefires), is part of the Ukrainian crisis.

The Ukrainian crisis is an arena of geopolitical conflict in which the interests of Russia, NATO and the EU intertwine. It is in this context, that the behaviour of Bulgarian political institutions has to be studied. A key place in this work is allocated to the question of the extent to which Bulgaria's commitments as a member of NATO and the EU are respected, but also how the deep ties between Russia and Bulgaria affect the institutions of the latter. At prima facie, the national interests of Bulgaria require of its politicians and institutions to strike a balance between NATO, the EU and Russia. But is this 'geopolitical ideal' really feasible? That is the other pressing question that the paper examines.

1. The policies of Bulgarian institutions

Bulgaria's policies towards the Ukrainian crisis have gone through several distinct stages. They are shaped by the political dynamics in Kyiv and depend on the changing parliamentary majority in Sofia. At the height of the Maidan protests, the 'strategy' of Bulgarian diplomacy has been characterized as the policy of "doing nothing" (Dimitrov, 2017, p. 96; Kalan, 2015). However, on February 20, 2014 Bulgaria supported the EU Council's decision to impose sanctions on twenty Ukrainian senior government officials found guilty of violence against protesters in Kyiv. Nine of the seventeen Bulgarian MEPs (representatives of GERB, the Blue Coalition and the National Movement for Stability and Progress – NMSP) expressed common support for Maidan protesters and called for the formation of a new unifying government, early elections and constitutional reforms in Ukraine.

Following Yanukovych's escape in late February 2014, Bulgaria expressed its support for the new government in Kyiv. However, Bulgarian authorities were concerned over the situation of the Bulgarian minority in Ukraine, especially in the context of the draft law on minority languages (at the end, the draft was not signed by then President Turchinov). According to data from the population census in Ukraine, conducted in 2001, 204,600 people in the country identified themselves as ethnic Bulgarians (Kuras & Pirozhkov, 2004).

The 'pro-Putin' party Ataka has criticized the positions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and denounced the visit of the Foreign minister Vigenin to Ukraine. But the minister's work has also been under scrutiny by certain circles within his own socialist party – the BSP. The majority of the BSP electorate sympathizes with Moscow in "the Russian-Ukrainian conflict" (Dimitrov, 2017, pp. 96–97). Nonetheless, Mr. Sergey Stanishev, who was at the time BSP's leader, has supported Ukraine's pro-European orientation.

Oresharski's government, President Plevneliev and the PES leader Stanishev have not recognized the outcome of the referendum on Crimea, in which the peninsula voted to join Russia (March 16, 2014). Immediately after the referendum, the EU imposed sanctions on twenty-one Russian and Ukrainian officials, because it was believed that they "facilitated the annexation". However, the referendum was attended – and thus de facto legitimized – by five MPs from Ataka and a journalist from the BSP's newspaper Duma – Alexandar Simov. Referring to the referendum, the publisher of Duma (2008–2015), Nikolai Malinov, congratulated "all Orthodox Slavs" on the "victory in the Third Crimean War" ("A MP from the BSP", 2014). In the years that followed, Mr. Malinov was about to play an important part in the increasingly tense relations between Bulgaria and Russia.

The analysis of the draft resolutions discussed at the Bulgarian National Assembly on the occasion of the Ukrainian crisis is indicative of the stances of the main political parties. The document prepared by the opposition centre-right GERB was "strongly pro-Atlantic", while that of Ataka painted a completely different picture – it presented the Euromaidan protesters as "terrorists", who were instigated by the US Assistant Secretary of State Newland. Furthermore, the BSP's plenum did not support the views of party's leader Stanishev regarding the crisis. Instead of the document proposed by Mr. Stanishev, a revised text was adopted at the forum, which did not mention anything about the Russian military units in Crimea (Dimitrov, 2017, p. 100).

The BSP's position on the crisis in Ukraine reflects the attitudes of party's electorate, which has strong sympathies towards Russia; 28% of BSP voters do not want the country to be a member of the EU, and 40% do not want Bulgaria in NATO ("Exacta", 2018). The party states that "it is crucial for Bulgaria to reduce the tensions between the Black Sea countries of Ukraine and Russia and to avoid escalation of the confrontation between NATO and Russia in the Black Sea" (BSP: "Vision for Bulgaria", 2019, p. 38). The BSP defends the balance between NATO membership and good relations with the Russian Federation (RF). At the same time, however, the BSP is calling for the lifting of sanctions on Russia, the commissioning of the Belene NPP, which will use Russian nuclear reactors, and the resumption of the gas corridor projects with Russia (Ibid.).

After the resignation of the Cabinet of Oresharski's on August 6, 2014, President Plevneliev appointed a caretaker government (August 6 – November 7, 2014) headed by Prof. Bliznashki. Mr. Daniel Mitov was appointed Foreign Minister and he remained on this post during the next (ordinary) government of the centre-right GERB (November 7, 2014 – January 27, 2017), the second cabinet led by Boyko Borisov. Mitov vouched that Bulgaria was not going to support lifting of sanctions against Russia – "a country that violated international law in the Ukrainian crisis" (Daniel Mitov, 2016).

After the second government of Mr. Borisov resigned in January 2017, the newly elected President Roumen Radev appointed a caretaker government (January 27 2017 – May 4, 2017) with Prof. Gerdzhikov serving as Prime Minister.

President Radev, a NATO general and a fighter-jet pilot, who was elected with the support of the BSP, calls for the restoration and improvement of "economic ties between Bulgaria and Russia (Rumen Radev, 2017). He also defends the view that the EU sanctions imposed on Russia must be lifted. Furthermore, the President supports the Turk Stream 2 project and describes the completion of the Belene NPP as "inevitable" (Rusenova, 2019).

In terms of foreign policy, the actions of the cabinet "Borisov" 3 (voted by the parliament on May 4, 2017) are contradictory. On the one hand, Foreign Minister Zaharieva adheres to NATO and EU positions on the conflict in Ukraine. On the other hand, Bulgaria refused to expel Russian diplomats in 2018 because of the Skripal affair. Borisov's GERB is in coalition with the United Patriots, which until September 2019 included the 'pro-Kremlin' Ataka.

The economic effect of Russia's counter-sanctions against Bulgaria, which I will not examine in details here, is a subject of a heated debate. According to Minister Taneva, in 2015 alone, the losses for Bulgarian agriculture from the Russian embargo amounted to 82 million Euros per year (Popov 2015). Some scholars claim that the losses are overestimated: "only two percent of Bulgaria's small agricultural exports go to the Russian market" (Dimitrov, 2017, p. 104). The crisis mainly affects Bulgarian tourism, the real estate sector, and especially, as we shall see, energy economics.

2. Bulgaria and the Russian instruments of influence

The relations between Bulgaria and the Ukraine "have always been in the shadow of the deep and contradictory trace left in Bulgarian history by Russia" (Dimitrov, 2017, p. 94). In 2015 the Bulgarian President Plevneliev stated that Russia aims at the destabilization not only of NATO member Bulgaria, but the Balkans as a whole, through "a hybrid campaign" (Holmes, 2015). In the words of General Gerasimov, the Chief of the Russian Armed Forces, the "hybrid warfare" requires the army to combine "its classical potential with the asymmetric one" (Gerasimov, 2013; Trenin, 2019).

At a certain level, in Bulgaria, the "fear" of Russia is disproportionately great; there are no conditions for a comprehensive "hybrid scenario" as in Ukraine (Bechev 2017, p. 192). In Bulgaria, unlike Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, etc., there is no significant Russian-speaking minority. Moscow relies most of the time on "co-opting" instead of "forcing" the local elite (Ibidem). Against NATO countries, such as Bulgaria, "softer" instruments are used, that have been applied since 'the socialist era': active measures, infiltration of state institutions, security services and local political and economic structures; misinformation; cyber attacks, etc. (Ibidem).

The use of disinformation by Russia is easier to prove than the other 'tools'. Much more difficult to verify are the cases of local actors 'hired' by Russia (Bechev, 2017, p. 192). There are, at least, two groups of Russian 'Trojan horses': first, protest movements, and activists; second, ultranationalist, far-right parties and organizations, but also left-wing and far-left formations that oppose NATO and the EU (Bechev, 2017, p. 192; Cholakov, 2018, pp. 112–120). It is believed that Russia can rely on the BSP, MRF, Ataka, Volya and other formations (Cholakov, 2018). Of particular importance, but also difficult to verify and, therefore, often the subject of anecdotal evidence, are cyber attacks and operations by Russian special services.

One example, reflected in a report by the Bulgarian State National Security Agency (SNSA) which seems to point that Russia holds the smoking gun, dates back to October 25, 2015. Immediately after the local elections, the websites of the Central Elections Commission, the Ministry of the Interior, the SNSA, the parliament and the presidency were all subjected to cyber attacks.

In my view, the biggest threat which Russia poses to Bulgaria is not its military machine or propaganda, but in the corruption which is widespread in Bulgaria's political system and the means by which the Kremlin attempts to benefit from this corruption. State capture works in favour of Russian interests (Bechev, 2017; Galeotti, 2017). Illegal practices, such as non-payment of taxes, the formation of cartels, etc., are common for companies patronized by the powers that be in Bulgaria. The Kremlin uses practices such as political appointments in state-owned companies, corrupt public procurement, lack of transparency and public control over political decisions (Bechev, 2017, p. 214).

While I agree with Bechev that, in the past, Russia preferred to rely on the use of "soft" tools in the case of Bulgaria, more recently there is evidence that Russia is using increasingly more aggressive instruments (see, for example, the 'Geber' affair, below). Furthermore, the polarization between the Kremlin, on the one hand, and Washington and Brussels, on the other, is intensifying.

There have been allegations – primarily on behalf of the centre-right GERB – that the Kremlin was instrumental in the selection of Mr. Radev as the presidential candidate to receive the support of the BSP ("Who is Reshetnikov and for which investigation were the Russophiles questioned", 2019). Some even suggest that Radev was hand-picked by the socialist party under the influence of the former director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) – General Leonid Reshetnikov (Ibidem).

Radev is not only in favour of Russia's energy projects and supports the lifting of sanctions imposed on the Kremlin, but he also vetoed a deal initiated by the third cabinet of Borisov to purchase eight US F-16 fighter jets. However, it is bizarre why – if Mr. Radev was indeed 'chosen' by the Kremlin – General Reshetnikov shall seek to disclose this, supposedly, top-secret 'information'. In my opinion, the behaviour of Reshetnikov is, actually, indicative of something else: it would be flattering for Russia's reputation if one was to succeed in convincing the world that the Kremlin has 'selected' the president of a NATO country. Reshetnikov's eagerness to 'share' this 'breakthrough', however, rather points at the opposite – that these are merely insinuations.

In the fall of 2017, GERB accused Radev of lobbying for the purchase of Swedish Saab's Gripen fighter jets for the Bulgarian army. The fact of the matter is that the caretaker government, appointed by Radev, ranked Saab's offer first. A parliamentary committee was set up in the autumn of 2017 to investigate the case, but – three years later – no charges were brought against the president. Either the 'Gripen' affair is a speculation, or Radev's critics prefer to keep the topic as an 'ace up their sleeve'. However, the latter is unlikely, given the conflict between Radev and Borisov, which escalated in 2020.

In October 2020 in Estonia, Radev expressed his strong support for the Three Seas Initiative, the patron of which is the United States (Engdahl, 2018). President Trump wants to detach the countries in the region from their energy dependence on Russia. The forum defends the energy diversification of the region in order to decrease the significance of Russia's clout, and promotes, for example, the supply of countries such as Poland with American liquefied natural gas (LNG). If Radev is under the influence of the Kremlin, his support for Three Seas Initiative is, to say the least, inexplicable.

At the same time, it seems that some of the activities of Reshetnikov have a direct bearing on the Ukrainian crisis. He is the initiator of the Two-Headed Eagle Society (established in 2016), which is funded by Konstantin Malofeev, a 45-year-old oligarch and defender of the "orthodox", "conservative values" ("Who is Reshetnikov…", 2019). In 2014, Ukraine launched a criminal investigation against Malofeev for funding "illegal military groups" (i.e. the Russian separatists) in the eastern part of the country; Malofeev's name is also included in the EU sanctions list (Ibid.).

In the 'Gebrev' affair there are allegations of actions by GRU agents in Bulgaria. The arms dealer Emilian Gebrev believes that an attempt was made in 2015 to poison him with Novichok. He has linked this case to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury (2018). One version – supported by Gebrev himself – is that he was attacked by the Kremlin because he exported weapons to Ukraine and, thus, harmed Russian interests (Gunkel, 2020).

In September 2019, the Bulgarian prosecution accused the leader of National Movement "Russophiles" (NMR) Nikolai Malinov and other key members of the organization in espionage on behalf of Russia. General Reshetnikov was banned from entering Bulgaria for ten years. The prosecution claims that there is evidence that Malinov accepted "for a fee to perform tasks from RISS and the Double-Headed Eagle Society", among which were: "the development of a political party", the establishment of "an influential television", etc. in order to change the "geopolitical orientation of the country" (Cholakov, 2020b). Malinov has met repeatedly with Reshetnikov and Malofeev. According to the prosecution, Mr. Malinov has stated in a "report": "We have taken action to transfer half a billion from Tsvetan Vassilev [the majority owner of the bankrupt Corporate Commercial Bank – CCB, who is currently hiding from the Bulgarian prosecution in Serbia] to the Russian businessman Malofeev" (Ibid.)

In September, 2020 Malinov has announced his intention to create and lead a new Bulgarian "Russophile" party by the end of 2020. The future party shall take part in the next parliamentary elections (that are due in the spring of 2021). This news seemed to corroborate the thesis of the prosecution against Mr. Malinov. The political platform of the new formation remains to be seen, but, given Malinov's close ties to Moscow ("Who is Reshetnikov…", 2019), it is more appropriate to dub this project a 'pro-Putin' or a 'pro-Kremlin party' instead of a "Russophile" formation.

Hours after Mr. Malinov made public his political ambitions, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry accused two Russian diplomats of espionage and declared them personae non gratae (Drumeva & Ginkova, 2020). According to the prosecution, they were looking for information about plans to modernize the Bulgarian army and improve the maintenance of the military equipment (Ibid.). In October 2020, Russia, which denied the allegations, took a reciprocal measure and expelled Bulgarian diplomats. Earlier in 2020, there was a similar case. In January, Bulgaria expelled two Russian diplomats suspected of collecting data on Bulgaria's national elections and energy security ("Lavrov called the Bulgarian ambassador to Russia", 2020).

3. The role of the US and the EU in neutralizing Russian influence

It is possible that the Bulgarian institutions have finally decided to deal with the instruments of Russian influence in Bulgaria under pressure from the United States. This political behaviour should be seen in the light of the fact that the relations between NATO and Russia are at their lowest point in years.

In a speech delivered at the Atlantic Club in November 2019, US Ambassador to Bulgaria Herro Mustafa said that the United States was ready to sanction corrupt Bulgarian officials (e.g. government officials, MPs, senior judges, attorneys, etc.) and their families. According to Mrs. Mustafa, those measures "will benefit Bulgaria in the long run, as strict adherence to the rule of law is inextricably linked to Bulgaria's political and economic prosperity" (Cholakov, 2019a).

In October 2019, the suspected espionage leader of the 'Russophiles' movement was released by Judge Andon Mitalov to travel to Russia for five days without the consent of the prosecutor's office. An unprecedented reaction from the State Department followed: in February 2020, Mitalov became the first high-ranking Bulgarian to be sanctioned by Washington for corruption.

Judge Mitalov's conduct can be seen as an argument in support of the allegations that Russia has influence over the judiciary in Bulgaria. The former Foreign Minister Mitov believes that – because of his firm pro-NATO positions, e.g. regarding the Ukrainian crisis and the war in Syria – he became a victim of unfounded, unproven accusations by the Bulgarian prosecutor's office; in his view, the prosecution acted under pressure from the Kremlin (Mitov, 2020). It is indicative, that the accusations against Mitov were dismissed by the court and he was acquitted in April, 2020.

The Bulgarian prosecutor's office has been silent for years regarding the allegations of possible Russian involvement in Gebrev's poisoning. It was only in 2019 that the then Chief Prosecutor Tsatsarov commented on the case, saying that Gebrev had been poisoned with an "insecticide" (Veselinova, 2019). Later, however, the prosecutor's office abruptly changed its version and accused three Russians of trying to poison Gebrev.

In this regard, we must also mention the MRF (Movement for Rights and Freedoms). While on 'the surface', this is a liberal and pro-Atlantic formation, for years there have been claims that this ethnic party in fact serves Russia's geopolitical interests in Bulgaria (Cholakov, 2018; Minchev, 2016). The MRF is believed to have a strong influence in the country's judiciary.

Mustafa's speech in Bulgaria's Atlantic Club is important for at least two reasons. Firstly, in my view, it contains the assessment that Bulgaria has a systemic problem with corruption at the highest levels of government. This claim is corroborated by the facts – Bulgaria has been constantly ranked as the most corrupt EU state in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of Transparency International (Transparency International, 2020). Ms. Mustafa's words, which are, of course, an expression of the official American position, contrast sharply with Borisov's government attempts to downplay Bulgaria's corruption problem. Secondly, Ms. Mustafa's speech suggests that, according to the United States, Bulgaria lacks the political will to tackle the metastases of corruption. The Bulgarian authorities have shown that they cannot (or do not want to) be 'cured'.

While the evidence on Russia's interference in the judiciary is disputable, Kremlin's leverage over Bulgaria's energy industry is a well-known fact.

The dictum of Emperor Alexander III "Russia has only two allies: the army and the navy" is well known. But, from the point of view of modern political realities, we can point out a third ally-the hydrocarbons. Energetics is Moscow's main geopolitical tool for influence. Bulgaria's energy industry is highly dependent on Russia: the country imports more than two thirds of the natural gas that it consumes (Cholakov, 2019d; Shentov, 2018). Lukoil Bulgaria, which is part of the Russian Lukoil Group, is the largest company in Bulgaria (it accounts for about 9% of GDP). In 2011 the then head of Lukoil-Bulgaria Mr. Zlatev became a mediator in the negotiations for the construction of Belene NPP. The Government of the Russian Federation has repeatedly expressed its strong support for the project (Bechev, 2017; Shentov, 2018).

At the end of the first decade of 2000, Bulgaria played a key role in the Kremlin's efforts to build a gas corridor through south-eastern Europe to bypass Ukraine – that was the intent behind the Blue Stream, Nord Stream and South Stream projects. Bulgaria was among the countries heavily affected by the Second Ukrainian Gas Crisis (January 6-20, 2009). Along with South Stream, two other ambitious projects, part of Russia's geopolitical game, are the construction of the Belene NPP and the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.

South Stream would probably have taken place had it not been for the Ukrainian crisis, in particular the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The crisis hampered reaching a compromise agreement between Gazprom and the European Commission (EC) on implementing EU rules on third-party access to South Stream. As a result, Prime Minister Oresharski announced that work on South Stream will be frozen until an agreement is reached between Russia and the EC. It is possible that the fate of South Stream became a catalyst for the political crisis that started in Bulgaria in June 2014 (Bechev, 2017). It led to the break-up of the ruling coalition, after the MRF withdrew its support for the Oresharski's government, and the early parliamentary elections in the autumn of 2014, which brought GERB back to power.

The bankruptcy of CCB has also been linked to the shutdown of the South Stream project. CCB's main partner – the MRF's politician and tycoon Delyan Peevski – has taken out significant loans from the bank with the intention of participating in the construction of South Stream (Bechev, 2017, p. 107). It is possible, that after the project failed, Mr. Peevski bankrupted the CCB, because he was not able to repay the loans (Ibid.). It is also worth noting that there is evidence that Mr. Malofeev was trying to acquire TV7 – a CCB's sponsored TV channel (Ibid.).

South Stream's fiasco has not ended Bulgaria's dependence on Russian energy. However, there are certain barriers to the effectiveness of Russia's 'energy weapon'. Changing market conditions and pressure from Brussels to liberalize and diversify gas supplies are reducing the weight of this instrument. Gazprom has been targeted by the EU, which in 2015 filed a lawsuit against the company for violating antitrust laws.

In October 2020, Francis Fannon, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy, has said that the project, which Prime Minister Borisov persistently calls "the Balkan Stream", is in fact a part of Turk Stream 2 ("The US remain against the Belene NPP…", 2020). The United States opposes this project, as well as the revival of Belene NPP. Washington expanded the sanctions against Turk Stream 2 and Nord Stream 2 companies and gave them a month to leave the two projects (Karaboev, 2020).

There is evidence that in Bulgaria Turk Stream 2 is being built by Russia, which has taken over the Saudi Arcade Consortium and has hired subcontractors related to Gazprom (Stanchev, 2020). Bulgartransgaz (Bulgaria's state-owned grid operator) is the owner of the new East-West pipeline (the part of the Turk Stream 2 in Bulgaria). In essence, the costs of BGN 3 billion for this pipeline are paid by the Bulgarian taxpayers. They are not going to receive back their 'investment' in the foreseeable future, since Gazprom has booked close to 90 percent of the throughput capacity over the next 20 years. In short, the claims of the Bulgarian government that it is working for energy diversification, i.e. for reducing the dependence of the Bulgarian energy sector on Russia, are false.

Conclusions

The reaction of the Bulgarian political system to the crisis in Ukraine is part and parcel of the everlasting question regarding the role of Russia in the Bulgarian politics. Unlike the Bulgarian governments, which – at least on the surface – adhere to the positions of the EU and NATO on the Ukrainian crisis, there is discord in the presidential institution. The contrast between the political agendas of Presidents Plevneliev and Radev is impossible to omit: one is a zealous Atlanticist, the other – a supporter of the foreign policy balance.

Bulgaria must take care to protect the rights and interests of the Bulgarian minority in Ukraine. In this sense, the stance of Bulgarian parliament against the planned administrative reform in Odessa in May 2020 was well-judged and appropriate. For Sofia the peaceful resolution of the conflict in the Black Sea is important. It is also clear, given the deep economic and cultural ties between Bulgaria and Russia, that Bulgaria has much to lose from the deterioration of the relations between Sofia and Moscow.

While examining the policies of Radev and Borisov, we are left with the impression that Bulgarian institutions often attempt to appease both Moscow and Washington. This paradoxical dichotomy reflects the attitudes of a large part of Bulgarian voters. At the beginning of 2015, 74% of Bulgarians assessed the government's policy towards the Ukrainian crisis as "moderate and balanced" (Alpha Research, 2015). However, a Pew Research Centre study conducted in nineteen countries, sixteen of which are members of NATO, shows that Bulgaria is the country that prefers ties with Russia to those with the United States (Fagan & Poushter, 2020). Two-thirds of Bulgarians reject the country's military intervention in support of a NATO ally "in the event of Russian aggression" (Ibid.). Furthermore, Bulgarians turn out to be 'champions' in 'liking Putin' – as many as 62% "have confidence" in the Russian president (Ibid.). However, how realistic is it for Bulgarian foreign policy to be guided by the principle 'always with NATO, never against Russia'?

The country has already made its choice; the geopolitical dice has been cast: Bulgaria has been a member of NATO since 2004 and of the EU since 2007. Both the Atlantic Pact and the EU condemn Moscow's role in the Ukrainian conflict. At the same time, allegations of Kremlin's interference in the political processes in the United States and elsewhere, the 'Skripal' affair, the uncovered base of Russian spies in the Alps in 2019, the mutual accusations over the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Navalny in the summer of 2020, and other events show that tensions between Russia, on the one the hand, and Brussels and Washington, on the other, are growing.

Bulgaria increasingly looks like a front-line state on the territory of which the clash between the Alliance and the Kremlin is taking place. Bulgaria should not sever all its ties with Russia, nor kneel before its 'new' foreign policy partners. However, Sofia must realize that the deepening inter-bloc animosity makes the ambiguous foreign policy positions highly inappropriate. Bulgaria should adhere more strictly to the course adopted by NATO and the EU, and, in particular, can benefit from the release of its energy industry from Moscow's 'custody'.

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O članku

jezik rada: srpski, engleski
vrsta rada: izvorni naučni članak
DOI: 10.5937/socpreg55-30308
primljen: 13.01.2021.
revidiran: 17.03.2021.
prihvaćen: 17.03.2021.
objavljen u SCIndeksu: 16.04.2021.
metod recenzije: dvostruko anoniman
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