NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised Bulgaria’s commitment to NATO during a visit to Sofia on Friday (March 1) which culminated in the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov assuring the Alliance that Bulgaria will not be used as a "Trojan horse" for Russia.
In a joint press conference, Borissov said Bulgaria is one of the most disciplined and loyal members of NATO. Stoltenberg returned the compliment by thanking Bulgaria for being a committed and highly valued ally in the Alliance.
"Bulgaria plays a strategic role in the Black Sea region," said Stoltenberg. "We do not want a new Cold War or arms race, therefore call on Russia to come back into compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty)."
On 20 October 2018, US President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing the US from the INF treaty, citing Russian non-compliance. Both the US and Russia formally suspended the treaty in early February.
The PM voiced concerns over the possibility of an escalation in the arms race between NATO and Russia but said Bulgaria continues to dialogue with Russia and stressed the importance of having a strong position when negotiating with Moscow.
"Bulgaria is not the Trojan horse of Russia in NATO, we are one of the most disciplined and loyal members of the Alliance," said Borissov.
Borissov and Stoltenberg spoke about Serbia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, and other conflict points where the Bulgarian military is utilised.
Borissov said Stoltenberg's visit was planned for months and did not factor in Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visit to Bulgaria on Monday (March 4).
The Secretary-General noted that this year the Alliance will celebrate its 70th anniversary, as well as the 15th anniversary of Bulgaria’s accession to NATO. “Bulgaria has contributed to strengthening the Alliance,” he said. Stoltenberg welcomed Bulgaria’s support for the accession of the Republic of North Macedonia to NATO.
Stoltenberg also thanked Bulgaria, who is one of NATO's poorest members, for its commitment to reach the NATO goal of spending 2% of GDP on defence.
Bulgaria joined NATO's Partnership for Peace in 1994 and applied for NATO membership in 1997. During the November 2002 Prague Summit, Bulgaria was one of seven former socialist countries invited to join the Alliance. Bulgaria became a full member of NATO in March 2004 and joined the European Union in 2007.
During the meeting, the NATO chief received a Martenitza from Borissov, a traditional Bulgarian piece of adornment worn on 1 March to welcome spring. Stoltenberg also expressed support for the Bulgarian Liberation Day taking place Sunday (March 3) to mark the end of the Russo-Turkish War which led to the re-establishment of the Bulgarian state.
Borissov first served as Bulgarian Prime Minister from July 2009 to February 2013 and then again from November 2014 to January 2017.
Borissov was re-elected for a third term on 4 May 2017.