Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 144

Russian first deputy defense minister Andrei Kokoshin made clear yesterday that Moscow views its recent donation of arms to Bulgaria as part of a broader effort to strengthen its presence in the Balkans. In remarks to Russian television, Kokoshin said that the Russian arms deliveries were a practical means of realizing Moscow’s "very serious intention to improve the balance of forces… in the region" and to deepen cooperation between the Russian and Bulgarian armies. (NTV, July 23) Kokoshin, whose responsibilities in the Defense Ministry include weapons’ development and procurement, was in Bulgaria. to mark the arrival of a first delivery of Russian arms. (See Monitor, July 23)

In Moscow, meanwhile, a Bulgarian military attache said that Sofia intended to modernize its armed forces exclusively on the basis of Russian-made military hardware and technology. Bulgaria has "for the past 120 years never used [military] technology other than Russian or Soviet" he said, and added that in Bulgaria today "the question of obtaining military technology from some other state is simply not raised." (Interfax, July 23)

The attache’s remarks come as Bulgaria’ northern neighbor, Romania, and a host of other Central, Eastern European, and former Soviet states look to strengthen their ties to NATO. In a number of cases political leaders of these former Warsaw Pact member states are at least pondering the purchase of Western military equipment to upgrade the Soviet arsenals that they inherited. Along with its fear of a loss of political influence in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, Moscow is also concerned over this potential loss of markets for its armaments manufacturers. Meanwhile, Bulgaria itself has been ambivalent about its future defense orientation, with its socialist parliament advocating closer ties to Russia while the nation’s president and democratic opposition urge a greater opening to NATO and the West.

Kiev Urges Moscow to Resume Stalled Talks Promptly.