We continue with more and more pressing questions to the Government, especially in the sphere of defense

Monday, 19 March 2018

 

The civil society pressure for solving the crucially important problems of the country will grow. The Government is starting to realise this

 

Within several months since its establishment, the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria managed to put in the focus of public attention some crucially important topics in the field of  national security, the status of Bulgarian democracy, the national foreign policy, the citizens’ rights and the rule of law in Bulgaria.

Special emphasis has been put on the subject of defence and in particular, what for, and how the money is spent – the money that the Bulgarian taxpayers give for their army.

The experts of the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria carefully monitor, analyse and clearly communicate to the society and our NATO allies the real status of the Bulgarian armed forces and the Bulgarian defense industry.

We do this  by implementing our organisation’s objectives and following our civic duty. Bulgarian society must be informed how worthy  Bulgaria is as an ally within NATO, how Bulgaria can be a reliable and predictable member of the Alliance and how NATO can help Bulgaria to become stronger, more secure and more successful.

This will be among our top priorities, as we will not only present the problems before the public, but will also continue to propose solutions on how Bulgaria can have more combat-ready armed forces, to be a stronger and more substantial ally within NATO, and an active participant in the European Defense.

Our expert activity for the public benefit demonstrates our strong commitment to our mission to be the civic guarantor for an effective and meaningful Bulgarian  membership in NATO and the EU.

We, the members of the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria are proud to call ourselves true patriots, European citizens and Atlanticists. We declare that we will not allow any deviation from our goals, nor will we pass over in silence any lies, insults and slurs, made to our organization, including from members of the Government.

We will protect firmly and unwaveringly the honour and dignity of the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria as a whole, and of each of our members, with all means and mechanisms available in the Bulgarian and European law.

We are proud that we have created our organization following our free will and civic initiative, and that we are independent of any Bulgarian or foreign institution, political party or other organization, as well as from any legal or natural person.

We will consistently protect this independence without compromise.

Any assertions towards us for having “foreign” financing  for our activities or slander for “commissions from contracts“, will take that person to court, regardless of how high their  position is. Any hints and suggestions in this regard, especially when coming from high political places, we assume are а result of apparent personal experience already acquired by corrupt practices, managerial incompetence or lack of political ethics.

The Atlantic Council of Bulgaria will continue with all the necessary consistence and responsibility to monitor the critical areas of government policy, and especially the field of defense.

We are convinced that the problem with the repair of the Soviet made jet fighters MiG-29 is a very serious one.

Until recently, without any clear argument from politicians, and away from the public attention, several Bulgarian governments were quietly pouring huge sums  into the Russian military industry for the maintenance of this old Soviet aviation equipment. This has been done systemically over the years, the amounts have been spent without question , while the public has been deliberately kept uninformed, which also made it incapable of showing any focused interest, let alone response in time.

This has now changed, also thanks to the activities of the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria.

We are carefully monitoring  not only the question of  the repair of the MiG-29s, but also the Government’s every step  in its security and defence policy. We follow with particular attention the signals of possible attempts to transition from repair and maintenance to “modernisation” of these MiG-29s, be it only a “small” (avionics) modernisation or “deep”, which will force our country to put billions more Bulgarian money into these old aircraft, which are ineffective and uninteroperable with the forces of our allies in NATO.

We find it absolutely unacceptable and irresponsible to pay Bulgarian taxpayer money to a state whose military doctrine considers NATO, and therefore Bulgaria too, as an enemy.

How can our Bulgarian pilots trust and be ready to go to war on these fighter aircraft after them being “repaired” by an enemy?

Did Russia finally provide us with the contracted full documentation package for the previous repairs of MiG-29, when Bulgaria payed over BGN 70 million? We have not forgotten this issue. We still remember when,  precisely for this reason, in October 2017 our fighter pilots denied to fly because of doubts regarding flight safety.

Several other air force problems are also in the focus of our attention, problems which have accumulated and remain  unattended and unresolved for years. For example:

  • The inaction regarding the criminally low number of flying hours for the Bulgarian pilots;
  • The condition of the radars is another burning issue. Given the extreme urgency to acquire new NATO-compatible radars we may only wonder if this project is financially secured for this year.
  • The condition of the “Cougar” helicopters, that for more than 10 years remain without armour and are unfit to be used in complex operations;
  • The “Spartan” transport aircraft that remain permanently grounded.

The longstanding bad practice of a senseless “shopping spree” in the last month of the (financial) year, blowing all the unspent part of the defence budget is also in our attention. What real operational capabilities are acquired or supported as a result of spending in haste large sums at the end of each financial year?

The acquisition of new battleships is also at the centre of our attention, especially when considering the questionably rushed procurement procedure that has been put in place in the winter of 2017 and its sudden and unexplained death just before Christmas.

We are also carefully monitoring the very selective public communications of the Ministry of Defence on the equipment repair and modernization. The insinuations that there was no alternative to Russia for maintenance of the aircraft, claiming that since  more than 80% of the equipment  is of Soviet origin there were no other options and we didn’t have a choice, is deeply false and manipulative. Such allusions serve the status quo and are against our national interests as a country – both member of NATO and the EU.

There is a choice and it is the rearmament with modern weapons, implementing long-term investment projects, including joint projects with countries from the NATO Alliance, especially with neighbouring ones. Here we can, and should use the capacity of the agencies of NATO and the European Defence Agency. The potential of the EU, especially within the framework of permanent structured cooperation, has to be employed to the maximum.

In addition, we must quickly find alternative options among the NATO Nations or partners, striving for NATO membership, to repair and maintain the old Soviet equipment, until it is replaced by a new one.

We are also monitoring with increasing concern the developments within the Bulgarian defense industry, especially on the issue of production licences, left over from before 1989. Here Russia, yet again is trying to impose its will, obviously to the detriment of the national interests of Bulgaria.

That’s why our Government must clearly realize what exactly it intends to sign with Russia.

All actions of the Government are under our magnifying glass, but especially those of the Minister of Defense, who is directly responsible for national defence policy in relation to any possible agreement with Russia.  This is extremely important, given the escalation of tensions in the international context and the destructive Kremlin policy in Europe, including its military actions, not far from our borders.

We understand that many of the ruling politicians are not accustomed to such civilian control and pressure, and that this creates for them certain discomfort. But we are also convinced that any democratic government has an inherent interest in having a competent and informed civil society as  a partner of the institutions, and not merely as a silent spectator.

It could have been exactly so hitherto, but with the establishment of the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria they’ll have to get used to a different reality from now on.

Therefore it is to be expected that the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria will ask the Government yet more and more pressing questions, and that it will provide the public with all the facts and evidence available.

We count on a well prepared team of established and proven experts with many years of practical, academic, managerial and policy experience in defence and security, energy, diplomacy, education, health, justice and the media. These are people who devoted themselves, their knowledge and their efforts for the cause

Bulgaria to become a normal and prosperous European state, a staunch stronghold on the eastern border of NATO and the EU.

Our mission is to have a state that is capable of guaranteeing the human rights and liberties, the human dignity and property, the security and prosperity of its citizens; a country that will no longer be the weakest link of NATO and the EU, and which will not function as the “Trojan horse”, exploited by the Kremlin regime.

The members of the Atlantic Council will continue to work untiringly, consistently and voluntarily for this most pure and worthy cause, led by our patriotic motto:

FOR A STRONGER BULGARIA IN A STRONGER ALLIANCE!

We remain vigilant!

 

Dimitrin Vichev

Co-Chairman of the Board and Representing
the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria

 

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