Bulgaria could have sent S-300 and S-200 to Ukraine for $200M

At the close of 2022, the United States proposed a $200 million deal with Bulgaria. The US offered to cover Bulgaria’s new weapon purchases if they handed over their old Soviet missiles, including the S-300, to Ukraine. The office of Galab Donev, who was in power at the time, remained silent – neither accepting nor rejecting the offer.  Details of this proposal emerged from a response provided by the Ministry of Defense within The 24 Hours newspaper. 

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Photo credit: Wikipedia

The $200 million was part of the US Foreign Military Financing [FMF] program. These funds are granted to NATO’s Eastern flank allies, like Bulgaria, to stimulate and compensate for military equipment donations to Ukraine. 

On September 8, 2022, the US announced a $1 billion FMF for Bulgaria and 16 other regional countries. On October 7, 2022, the American Embassy in Sofia confirmed that the US Congress had approved nearly $40 million for Bulgaria. These funds were meant to recompense Bulgaria’s humanitarian aid to Ukraine and support the formation of a multinational NATO battle group on Bulgarian soil. 

In December 2022, a US delegation visited Bulgaria. Their mission was to persuade the interim government to participate in the FMF program by sending Soviet military equipment to Ukraine. Unofficial reports suggest that the Americans offered modern NASAMS air defense systems to Bulgaria in exchange for their S-300 missile systems to Kyiv. 

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During this period, Galab Donev’s office was in charge. Both President Rumen Radev and Acting Defense Minister Dimitar Stoyanov publicly opposed Bulgaria giving missiles to Ukraine. They argued that it would weaken the Bulgarian Army’s capabilities and noted that the window for “triangular” replacement armament deals had closed in mid-2022 under Kiril Petkov’s cabinet. 

President Radev further argued that Bulgarian law prohibits the removal of weapons from military stockpiles without first securing replacements. He warned that replacements would take time and come at a cost. Most recently, on January 6, 2023, the US announced an additional $682 million in military aid under the FMF program. It is believed that a portion of this aid was offered to Bulgaria. 

End-of-year negotiations with US embassy representatives revealed that funding was contingent on Bulgaria supplying Ukraine with air defense systems [SA-5/C-200 and SA-10/C-300], ammunition, and armored vehicles. 

In response to whether this funding could be used to replace Bulgarian S-300 air defense systems with American NASAMS, the ministry stated that all options were considered during political-military discussions. The amount of funding would depend on the specific parameters of military aid that Bulgaria could provide to Ukraine. 

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The Ministry of Defense maintains that Bulgaria has not rejected the aid but, rather, has yet to reach an agreement with the Americans. The Ministry of Defense also initiated discussions with 10 other NATO and EU partner countries – Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium. 

The aim of these discussions was to explore opportunities for acquiring, deploying, or providing replacement defense capabilities through “circular” or “triangular” transactions in exchange for aid provided to Ukraine. The ministry reported that while some opportunities were identified, their capacity was quickly exhausted due to rapid developments and delays caused by cumbersome administrative-legal decision-making procedures.

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