Bulgaria - Military Policy

As a result of various positive developments in international relations, by 2010 the probability of large-scale conflict between sovereign states has been significantly reduced. The probability of the Republic of Bulgaria being drawn into such a conflict, as a member of NATO and the EU, was negligible. The hazards that led to the classical, typical for the 20th Century large-scale military conflics, have been replaced by essentially new risks and threats.

The first attempt to define a national security strategy was made in 1995, when the first National Military Concept (NMC) was issued by the socialist led government. It pointed out that “national interests can be protected by relying on the national military forces.” The socialist government saw military security as “determined by the strategic, political, and military factors in the international environment, on the one hand, and national military capabilities on the other.” While the concept identifies collaboration with international institutions and friendly states as a supplementary way for achieving national security, joining NATO was not a major strategic goal of the Bulgarian government at that time.

The first White Paper was published in 2002, more or less along with the first Defence Strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria. Both the White Paper and the Defence Strategy were devoted to military reform, interoperability and preparation in completing the strategic objective – NATO membership. Despite the huge efforts, the unprecedented cutbacks and the concequences born by people working in defence and the Armed Forces, the principal objectives set in the first White Paper were not achieved. The Bulgarian Army’s organisation-building and modernisation plans were not developed with optimal consideration to the state’s ability to guarantee the resources necessary for their practical implementation.

The contemporary strategic security environment, the significant build-up of imbalances between planned capabilities and the resources allocated for their creation and maintenance, the ineffective defense management and the negative impact of the global economic and financial crisis – were factors that led to a Force Structure Review (FSR). The review started in February 2010 and in the course of the process the government reviewed and actualised the structure, size, roles, missions and tasks of the Armed Forces.

The main objective was to determine what defence capabilities Bulgaria needs to develop, taking into account existing and actually foreseeable resources the public can spare for defence in the context of our place in NATO’s collective defence system and EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy. The goal is to achieve a real transformation of defence capabilities, rather than another set of technical reductions.

The Armed Forces Development Plan (AFDP) is a result of the FSR. The conceptual part of FSR ended with the writing and publication of the White Paper on Defence and Armed Forces of the Republic of Bulgaria as a development program for the Armed Forces adopted by resolution in the National Assembly. This program would be put into practice through this AFDP and the Long-Term Investment Plan (LTIP). Unlike before, different modernising matters are discerned in the Long-Term Investment Plan. The two plans are interrelated, the latter being crucial for the achievement of the first.

The purpose of the FSR, which will be practically implemented through the AFDP, is to build and maintain a single set of forces balanced for all tasks, with a unified command & control system for peacetime and during crises, with the organisation, size, armament, equipment and training adequately corresponding to its role, missions and tasks. This will be a modern Armed Forces, backed with the required resources, which will prioritise in the development of capabilities so as to participate in expeditionary operations with the forces of other NATO and EU countries.

  1. Defence covers tasks linked to guaranteeing the state’s sovereignty and independence, defence of the territorial integrity of the state and of NATO member-states through article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. In accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Armed Forces defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country with all available forces and means. This defence is realised in terms of activating article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty – the Armed Forces carry out the defence with the joint forces and means of NATO’s collective defence, according to NATO’s Common Defence Planning System. Part of NATO’s forces would be temporarily deployed on Bulgarian territory.
  2. Support to international peace and security includes carrying out international and coalition commitments to participate in NATO and EU crisis-response operations; partaking in missions of the UN, the OSCE and other coaltion structures; arms control related activities; the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), impedingtheir media of proliferation and materials for production; international military partnerships; the provision of humanitarian relief; and the consolidation of trust and security.
  3. Contribution to the National Security in Peacetime includes: developing/maintaining early-warning capabilities for potential risks and threats; control of sea and air space activities; deterrence operations; neutralising terrorist, extremist and criminal groups; protection and defence of strategic sites; protection and support of the populace in case of natural disasters, industrial accidents and ecological crises; unexploded ordnance disposal; providing humanitarian relief; support to migration control; search and rescue activities; support, when necessary, to other government organisations and local authorities to prevent and overcome the consequences of terrorist attacks, natural disasters, industrial accidents, ecological crises and epidemics.
The conclusions on the strategic environment and our NATO and EU membership lead to conceptual and doctrinal changes in the use of the Armed Forces. Those are central to the new structure. We are in need of a change in concept development, combat training and use of our Armed Forces, based on manoeuvrable battle groups fully equipped and trained to defend the state as well as to participate in missions outside its territory.

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