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SOFIA, (BM) – Only a few days ago, an extremely high-ranking military visit of an American general to Bulgaria went somewhat unnoticed. There was a modest announcement that the Chief of Defense, Admiral Emil Eftimov, had met with the Chief of Staff of the US Army, General James McConville, at the Novo Selo training ground. It was announced that they discussed “issues related to the training of Bulgarian and American servicemen, as well as the impact of the COVID 19 crisis on its intensity.”
As well as that the talks focused on the use of joint facilities and their development and modernization in the future, as well as the prospects for cooperation between the ground forces of the two countries. However, it became clear that the meeting was attended by Ambassador Hero Mustafa, Ambassador for Foreign Affairs and Adviser to General McConville Laura Doe, Commander of the US Army in Europe Lieutenant General Christopher Cavoli, Commander of the 21st Support Command Gen. .-Major Mohan. On the Bulgarian side, the Commander of the Land Forces, Major General Mihail Popov, took part. And that’s it.
In practice, this is and would remain only protocol information if it were not possible to look at things both in development and in context. Because just a day earlier, the Romanian news agency Agerpres announced that talks had been held in Bucharest on the number of US troops to be stationed in Romania. The consultations were attended by Secretary of Defense Nicolae Chuque and Chief of Staff General Daniel Petrescu, and on the American side by Chief of Staff of the Land Forces James McConville and Commander of the United States Army in Europe General Christopher Cavoli.
It was announced that the US military leader had announced that the number of US troops to be deployed in Romania and where they would be located had been discussed in “great detail” with Romanian partners. The Chief of the Romanian Headquarters announced that the HIMARS and Patriot missile systems will soon enter service in the Romanian army, and that during the joint Romanian-American exercises in 2021 the initial operational readiness of the command of the multinational corps will be announced. NATO “South-East”.
It is not necessary to be a strategist or very experienced in military affairs to remember that in this case, since one thing is done in one country, it is unlikely that the same will happen to the other. Moreover, at the same time, the story of the withdrawal of American troops from Germany happened. Something that has a direct connection with the possible future relocation of some of them in Romania and Bulgaria.
“Germany pays billions of dollars to Russia for energy, and we have to protect them from Russia. Why is all this? Besides, they are still delaying the two percent fee for NATO. So we will move some troops from Germany.” This was written only three weeks ago by President Donald Trump on Twitter. Hours earlier, Pentagon chief Mark Esper announced that the United States was withdrawing 11,900 troops from Germany.
He suggested that some of them could be relocated to the Black Sea region, but without specifying where exactly. According to Esper, the United States will repatriate about 6,400 US troops and about 5,600 will be stationed in NATO countries. “The current plan of the European command is to move about 11,900 troops from Germany, reducing their number there from about 36,000 to 24,000,” he said, adding that the withdrawal and redeployment would begin as soon as possible.
Esper clarified that in the future the United States intends to deploy additional forces in Poland and the Baltic states. Some of the troops from Germany would go to Italy and Belgium. Finally, he announced that other units would be deployed on a rotating basis “to the east and in the Black Sea region” to “strengthen Russia’s restraint” and ensure the security of the allies on the southeastern flank.
The announced decision by the United States to withdraw about a third of its troops from Germany was agreed with NATO countries, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said shortly afterwards. The statement by US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper underscores Washington’s commitment to European security, he said.
The plans are for the European Command (EUCOM) to be moved from Germany to the city of Mons in Belgium, where NATO Headquarters (SHAPE) is located; the headquarters of the American special operations units will also be located there. The command for Africa will leave its headquarters near Stuttgart, but it has not been decided exactly where it will go. F-16 aircraft will go to the Aviano base in Italy. The United States will maintain its large base in Rammstein and the military hospital in Landshut.
Immediately after that came the European tour of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It was initially announced that he was in Europe to force countries to abandon Chinese investment and projects to build the 5G network, to declare Beijing the number one enemy, and to hint that anyone dealing with Russia and its energy projects , it will have a problem with Washington.
Finally, it became clear that Pompeo was here because of the relocation of some American troops in Germany to other Central European NATO members.
Around this time came an article in the Wall Street Journal claiming that the US Department of Defense could begin rotating Stryker brigades in Romania and Bulgaria as part of the repositioning of the country’s armed forces in Europe. Before that, one of the most capable units, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (2CR), will have to be returned from Germany to the United States. And that this will be one of the consequences of the withdrawal of 12,000 US troops from Germany.
Deployment for a few weeks or months, usually in the form of exercises on Bulgarian training grounds is not an unknown practice. For example, in 2017, hundreds of US troops arrived in Bulgaria as part of the largest rotation in Europe since the end of the Cold War. They deployed in Novo Selo. There were 250 US troops on the scene with 22 Bradley war machines and 4 Abrams tanks. They were all part of Operation Atlantic Determination for a stronger American presence in Europe.
The multinational exercise was led precisely by the US Army Command in Europe and involved about 25,000 troops from 23 allied and partner countries. Its aim was to increase “the interoperability of the participating countries and to demonstrate determination and readiness to act in support of security and stability in the Black Sea region”.
Then it became clear that after the exercise 1260 people went to Poland, 1380 soldiers went to Germany, 270 to Romania, 60 to Hungary and 250 arrived in Bulgaria. And for a period of 9 months.
In fact, this is exactly the model that has been used in recent years. Novo Selo is a Bulgarian base, but there are always American soldiers in it, who from time to time go through a rotation. Everything happens under conditional concepts such as training, joint training, surgery, training.
However, it is believed that a rotation of the Stryker Brigade would be something of a completely different level. This is a combat unit of thousands of military, in particular 2CR numbers 4800 people. They have hundreds of machines – combat, transport and engineering, artillery units and ready to be transferred by transport aircraft and deployed within 96 hours.
Stryker is built around a high-tech integrated environment, trained to defend against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons, as well as to provide enhanced security, deterrence and defense in conflict, at least until heavy armored infantry and air forces arrive. .
Somewhere here came the reaction of Moscow, which also only confirmed that a relocation was indeed being prepared, including for Romania and Bulgaria.
Moscow is urging Eastern European partners to weigh the risks and consider the consequences of deploying the US military on a rotating basis on their territory, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. It is now about the emergence of a permanent military contingent of the United States and its allies in Eastern Europe in places they have never been before. Such, if implemented, would jeopardize the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, mainly with regard to the lack of “significant military forces in the new members of the alliance,” Zakharova said at a briefing.
All this testifies to the intention of the United States and its NATO allies to continue to pursue a kind of arc of tension along the border with Russia, to the detriment of European security interests. Such provocative actions will not go unanswered by Russia. This fact must be taken into account in the capitals of these Eastern European countries, working to nurture Russophobia, inviting American soldiers, Moscow said. “We advise them to carefully weigh all the risks and seriously consider the consequences,” Zaharova said.
It should also be noted here that the establishment of a coordination center in Varna has been announced, which will lead all exercises held under the NATO flag in the Black Sea. It was explicitly stated that this was not a “large naval base with infrastructure”. Separately, Bulgaria bought 8 F-16 fighters for BGN 2.2 billion and is now starting to modernize its base in Graf Igatievo. Recently, there was an exercise to conduct an air landing. This is obviously the case for all sectors – water, land and air. And obviously this is the future. Because Bulgaria is simply a member of NATO – a club in which the United States is the main player.
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