Monday, February 15, 2010

Bulgaria and Transdniester Want In On Missile Shield Sweepstakes

Seems everyone in eastern Europe wants a piece of the anti-missile shield pie.  Bulgaria is the latest former Warsaw Pact nation to voice its eagerness to President Barack Obama's slimmed-down, vague plan.  But it's not only the Americans who are in demands.  Now the Russians are finding eager parties as well to house their military hardware.  Yes, it is only the sliver of a territory, the Moldovan breakaway region of Transdniester.  But the news shows this U.S. project is stirring things up in the region, and could possibly lead to a new arms race.

First Bulgaria got things started.  But only sort of.  Bulgarian bulldog Prime Minister Boyko Borisov (who gives new meaning to the term barrel chested) was speaking days after Romania announced it too wanted U.S. missiles on its territory.  (The Informant covered Bucharest's decision here)

On a visit to Washington on Feb. 12, Borisov put it in patriotic colors when asked if Bulgaria would agree to 'hosting' part of the missile shield.

Borisov cited solidarity, collective security.  Deflecting a bit, Borisov said any final decision would be made by Bulgaria's parliament and the European Commission (not sure what he was thinking citing the EU's star chamber.)

To prove its slavish fealty, Bulgaria last month accepted a U.S. request to "house" a Guantanamo detainee.  It's also chipping in another 100 soldiers in Bulgaria to join its 500 troops already there. 

U.S. Ambassador to Sofia James Warlick said preliminary talks had already taken place with Bulgaria.  Warlick also let out a whooper, saying Washington had held talks not only with Bulgaria, but with "other countries in the region."

Washington wants some of these interceptor missiles operationable by 2015.

So much for President Barack Obama's claim of dropping missile defense and resetting relations with Russia.

Russian Today also questioned whether Obama's slimmed down missile defense shield isn't actually more rotund than its Bush predecessor.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wants an explanation from old ally Bulgaria about its decision. 

Lavrov referred to what he called the "Bulgarian surprise" and "Romanian surprise."

Russian officials have already cited the creeping U.S. missile plans as the reason why a new strategic nuclear arms treaty to replace START has not been signed.

In its hubris, Washington has rejected those Russian claims.

The Informant has covered that affair here

Now, Transdniester, a sliver of land sandwiched between Ukraine and Moldova proper, has upped the ante. 

The president of Transdniester, populated mostly by ethnic Slavs who refuse to live under the control of Moldovan authorities in Chisinau, said he would be willing to host Russian tactical missiles if the Kremlin asked. 

Transdniestr's leader Igor Smirnov was quoted by Interfax as saying he was prepared to host Russian missiles and made clear it was linked to the latest U.S. missile plans.

"As far as the Iskander (missile) is concerned, we have long said we are ready," he said.

Moldova's acting president, Mihai Ghimpu, dismissed Smirnov's offer as unrealistic, telling Reuters Transdniestria is "an artificial creation and has no right to a voice in Moldovan-Russian relations."
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