Bulgaria intends to discuss with the United States the possibility of housing elements of the Obama administration's planned European missile defense system, Reuters reported Friday (see GSN, Feb. 9).
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said he would not be alone in making the decision on whether his nation would play a role in the missile shield, but said that, as a European Union and NATO member, Sofia should "show solidarity."
"When you are a member of NATO, you have to work for the collective security," Borisov said.
Washington has replaced the Bush administration plan to deploy missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic with an initiative that calls for land- and sea-based versions of the Standard Missile 3 system to be fielded in Europe as a hedge against possible short- and medium-range missiles launched from Iran.
U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Warlick said Friday the two countries have already had informal talks on the matter and that he was optimistic that Sofia would be involved in the missile shield, the Focus news agency reported. Similar preliminary discussions have also taken place with other nations in Europe, Warlick said.
Romania, which borders Bulgaria, earlier this month announced that it had agreed to host U.S. ballistic missile interceptors. Washington said the interceptors would be operational by 2015 (Tsolova/Mudeva, Reuters I, Feb. 12).
The Moldovan breakaway territory Transdniestria said yesterday that it was willing to field Russian tactical missiles in response to the updated U.S. missile defense strategy, Reuters reported.
"As far as the Iskander (missile) is concerned, we have long said we are ready," Transdniestria leader Igor Smirnov said in an Interfax report.
Moldova's acting president, Mihai Ghimpu, brushed off Smirnov's comment in a Reuters interview. Transdniestria is "an artificial creation and has no right to a voice in Moldovan-Russian relations," he said (Conor Sweeney, Reuters II/MSNBC, Feb. 15).
Moscow also appeared to show little interest in the offer, RIA Novosti reported.
"This situation could lead to a rather serious regional argument or even a political conflict. In regard to whether Iskanders should be deployed there or not, Iskander (missiles are) not a means to be used in such talks," said Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin (RIA Novosti I, Feb. 16).
Russia continued to raise objections to U.S. plans for European missile defenses, Reuters reported.
"We have already asked our partners in Washington ... what does this all mean and why after the Romanian 'surprise' there is a Bulgarian 'surprise' now," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an RIA news agency report (Sweeney, Reuters II).
Russia stridently objected to the Bush-era plan that would have placed 10 long-range missile interceptors in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic. While Moscow was initially somewhat mollified by the Obama administration's revised plan, the Kremlin has increasingly raised objections to the effort in recent weeks (see GSN, Jan. 26).
Lawmakers from the two nations are scheduled to discuss the matter next week, RIA Novosti reported.
"Members of the State Duma International Affairs Committee will travel to Washington for the fifth joint session with congressmen, members of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee," Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the Russian panel, said in a television interview (RIA Novosti II, Feb. 16).
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said yesterday that Washington has no intention of fielding Aegis-equipped warships in the Black Sea as part of its plans for a missile shield, ITAR-Tass reported.
"The Russians have been consistently advised as to what the phased adapted approach is and what the plans are for the four pieces of the [European missile defense] time table," Tauscher said.
"My Russian counterparts were informed ... that the president was going to offer Romania the opportunity to host Phase 2 in 2015 -- the land-based SM-3 site," she said (ITAR-Tass, Feb. 15).