Last week we wrote that the highly publicized dissent of German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier against the overall NATO build-up near Russia's borders would open the door to other weaker members of the Atlantic Alliance speaking up against the U.S. dictated surge of forces in Eastern Europe. As it turned out, we did not have to wait long to see confirmation of this proposition, in the form of Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov remarks made within days of Steinmeier's criticism of NATO 'warmongering' and 'sabre-rattling'. In Borissov's case, he rejected any combined NATO Black Sea squadron (naturally led by the Bulgarians' former Turkish occupiers) against the Russians, bluntly stating, "I do not need a war in the Black Sea".
Either Excess Brevity or Stupidity by Atlanticist-Dominated 'Drive by Media':
Reuters Skips Mentioning Bulgaria's Historic Ties to Russia and the General Russophilia of the Bulgarian Orthodox Christian Population in a Story
Expressing the typical Anglo-American NATOist party line, London-based Reuters described the Bulgarian PM's remarks as 'buckling to Russian pressure'. Naturally, the Reuters 'reporters' writing the story express basically zero knowledge of Bulgaria's history or the fact that Bulgarians owes their emergence as a nation state out of the defeated Turkish Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century to the Tsarist Russian Army, to whom the Alexander Nevsky cathedral the most famous building in the capitol Sofia is dedicated:
To their credit Bloomberg did a better job than Reuters in reporting more details the same day:
Why the U.S. Navy Needs Local NATO Members and Partners Like Ukraine and Georgia to Get Around the Montreux Convention's Restrictions on non-Black Sea Nation Warships
First let's unpack what these paragraphs mean. As non-Black Sea nations, the United States and many of its NATO allies led by Great Britain and France are limited by the Montreux Convention of 1936. This treaty regulates the type of warships passing through the Dardanelles/Bosporus nautical bottleneck between Europe and Asia/Anatolia through Istanbul, which since 1453 has been ruled by Turks. The Montreux Convention prohibits Turkey from restricting the peaceful passage of both merchant and warships through the Strait except under a declared emergency near a state of war or by declaring war. This proved to be a key point after the shoot down by the Turkish Air Force of a Russian SU-24 jet last November, which led many (post)Western analysts to speculate that the Turks would try to close the Strait to the Russians' 'Syrian Express' of cargo and troop carrier vessels supplying Assad's army with munitions.
According to the Montreux treaty, non-Black Sea nations cannot send aircraft carriers into the Black Sea and/or are required to rotate their warships out of the enclosed sea within 21 days of entry. This applies for example to the now famous and reportedly hacked by Russian electronic warfare AEGIS destroyer USS Donald Cook, as well as the USS Porter which entered the Black Sea earlier this month to conduct joint exercises with the Romanian Navy. Which means in practice the U.S. Navy can only conduct expeditionary operations in the Black Sea on a rotating, rather than permanent stationing basis.
Thus Washington needs local allies like NATO members Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey or non-NATO but post-Soviet states Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to challenge the growing power of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, based on the Crimean peninsula. Otherwise the U.S. Navy is going to be constantly rotating AEGIS and potentially nuclear Tomahawk cruise missile-armed warships in and out of the Black Sea, with limits on the total amount of tonnage it can have in the narrow waterway at any time.
The problem for the U.S. Navy of course is that the two NATO states Romania and Bulgaria have weak navies, while Turkey is primarily a land power embroiled in proxy war in Syria and a hot war at home with hundreds of police and soldiers lost in fighting with the PKK Kurds (and an unknown number of Turkish 'vacationer' intelligence officers and specops personnel also incinerated by Russian bombs alongside the jihadist groups Ankara supports in Syria). For their part, the post-Soviet republics Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia have rusting 'navies' in shambles which are in desperate need of modernization.
On the other side of the Black Sea military equation, Russia's potent anti-air missiles like the S400/500 series have been acknowledged by retiring NATO commander Gen. Phillip Breedlove as being part of a potent 'area denial' capability should war break out in the Baltic and Black Seas. Moscow's supersonic and soon hypersonic anti-ship missile capabilities have also led the Turkish President turned dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to complain about the Black Sea being turned into 'a Russian lake'.
NATO's War Games in the Black Sea and What Scenarios They're Preparing For:
A U.S.-Sponsored Romanian Occupation of Moldova Followed by Blockading the PMR
In response to Moscow's re-acquisition of the 'unsinkable aircraft carrier' in the Black Sea that is Crimea, the 'shadow CIA' Stratfor based in Austin, Texas has been aggressively promoting the idea of Ukrainian-Turkish cooperation against their 'common enemy' Russia. Stratfor CEO George Friedman, the man best known in Russia for what he says is a mangled quote about the Maidan being the 'most blatant [U.S. sponsored] coup in history', has been actively promoting 'the Russian threat' to the Romanian public this year. As we've reported here at RogueMoney (in part based on the writings of Saker blog contributor 'Scott'), Moscow military analysts strongly suspect the joint U.S.-Moldovan exercises conducted around the Soviet Victory Day (May 9) holiday this year were a 'dry run' for a joint American-Romanian occupation of constitutionally neutral, non-NATO buffer state Moldova.
Romania's role in such a scenario is being egged on by the neocons including notorious Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland. These neoconservative Russia haters want to 'hoist the Kremlin by its own justification for occupying Crimea petard', by justifying a snap Romanian-Moldovan anschluss as reunifying fraternal peoples who historically existed in one state (not to mention acquiring Moldova as additional real estate for NATO aka one more post-Soviet state denied friendly relations with Russia/enslaved by the EU). As we wrote on May 14 in "Cold War 2: Who's Provoking Whom? And Washington's Greater Romania-Moldovan Play for the Black Sea Region" under different 'peacetime' circumstances the Kremlin could tolerate a Romanian-Moldovan reunion if conducted peacefully by referendum, without any American or NATO troops/ships present.
Why Russia Fears a Joint U.S.-Romanian-Ukrainian Blockade of Landlocked Transnistria
Transnistria is a tiny Soviet-legacy sliver of land with barely half a million people on it, many of whom are ethnically Moldovan or are simply descended from Russian Empire/Soviet era mixing between Moldovans, Russians and Ukrainians. If Transnistria and neighboring Gagaúzia were permitted to join the Russian Federation while the rest of Moldova voted to peacefully join Romania, there would be no problem. Such a long term solution to the decades-old frozen post Soviet conflict was possible and being seriously discussed as late as the mid-2000s, but that isn't the world we live in now. The fact is Romania remains a part of NATO, and dissolving the Moldovan state or bringing it under Bucharest's occupation would mean that the pro-Moscow landlocked statelet wedged between Moldova and Ukraine would become surrounded and vulnerable to blockade by hostile forces.
Since Russia has 2,000 peacekeepers in Transnistria, any blockade would be considered an act of war by Moscow and bring a violent Russian response, most likely using VDV paratroopers and aviation deployed from Crimea. Practice for blocking by air and sea Moscow's ability to either resupply the exclave by boat up the Dniestr river is one of the not-so-hidden motives behind the U.S. Navy's activities in the Odessa region triangle where Ukrainian, Moldovan and Transnistrian borders meet.
Beyond the Brexit Example: Why Bulgaria's Politicians, Normally Paid Off by Washington and Brussels, Are Slowly Being Forced to Listen to the Mostly Russophile Bulgarians
The Bulgarian PM Borissov, being no one's fool and apparently having some competent geopolitical advisers, is apparently aware of such NATO contingency plans for blockading Transnistria if not threatening Crimea and wants Bulgaria's navy to have nothing to do with them. Furthermore, Borissov is well aware that the same President Klaus Iohannis who urged Bulgaria to join Bucharest in a common Black Sea NATO 'fleet' didn't show up for the Alliance's ceremony opening the American ABM complex on Romanian soil a few weeks ago. In other words, like many other European leaders particularly in economically depressed southern Europe, Borissov is asking himself why his country should continue to pay a price in lost trade and tourism for Washington's 'sabre rattling', as German FM Frank Walter Steinmeier called it. And if the rich Germans at the center of NATO/EU get to complain about the costs of antagonizing Moscow for their industry and security, how much more a weaker and poorer member state on the periphery like Bulgaria?
None of this means of course, that Bulgaria is going to leave the EU in a BG-exit or revolt against NATO anytime soon -- which means Bulgarian shills for NATO like @ChristoGrozev on Twitter can breathe a sigh of relief. Rather the criticism will continue to be along passive aggressive German lines and double standard-complaining Italian ones. Borissov is well aware of the fact that although Russian tourism to Varna and other Bulgarian resorts has been weaker in recent years due to greater competition from Moscow-subsidized Crimea, Russians are still significant real estate investors along the Bulgarian Riviera. On the other side of that coin, however, the Washington/Brussels dominated Foreign Ministry snubbed the Russians on the date Bulgaria commemorates its liberation from Turkish occupation on March 3. This suggests that, as in Germany, Italy or France, the Bulgarian elites are torn between the payoffs for remaining in Washington's Atlanticist empire and the interests of their business community in expanding trade with the Eurasian bloc led by Russia and China:
Bulgaria's Soviet legacy arms manufacturing industries, alongside those of Croatia, are also huge beneficiaries of Washington's endless wars in the Mideast, with Sofia and Zagreb supplying rocket propelled grenades, Kalashikovs and other Soviet-type weaponry to the Syrian jihadists via Turkey. This is a mostly hidden from public view method Washington uses to buy the loyalty of Balkan area elites. There are rumors that even nominal Russian ally Serbia's 'merchants of death' are sending weapons via Croatia to Assad and Moscow's jihadi enemies in Syria, as Serbian labeled weaponry has been photographed or filmed in the hands of 'moderate' Syrian rebels fighting Damascus.
Under EU(SSR)/Atlanticist Rule Bulgaria is Being Brain Drained and Its Agriculture and Population Are Shrinking Faster Than Almost Anywhere Else in Europe
The lifting of Russian counter-sanctions against EU agriculture would also enormously benefit Bulgarian farmers, who in Soviet times supplied the USSR with tomatoes long before the now-banished Turkish tomatoes filled that market niche. Finally, Borissov is shrewdly appealing to the growing disillusionment with the European Union and its promises across Bulgaria, despite tens of billions of euros in subsidies largely paid by the German and northern European taxpayers for infrastructure and 'market reforms' (for which Bulgarians have paid dearly, through the sacrifice of its agricultural, IT and other industries):
As a recent translation published at Ft. Russ explained, just about every aspect of Bulgaria's utilities and what's left of its shriveled post-Soviet industries have been sold off to foreign EU investors, to the point that a former sunny breadbasket of the Byzantine Empire and later the Soviet Bloc is reduced to importing subsidized Dutch tomatoes and French potatoes:
The Call of a Common Byzantine Orthodox Christian Civilizational Legacy Shared with Russia --- and Immivasion Threats from an Old, Familiar Enemy -- The Turks
Bulgaria may not be seen in Washington as such a terribly strategic piece of real estate, particularly now that NATO practically owns Ukraine's Odessa as yet another port to go along with Constanta, Romania. Nor did the Bulgarian PM's dissent from the NATO party line receive the kind of headlines that the German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier's pointed criticism did last week.
However, Bulgaria's location at the Thracian crossroads between Muslim NATO member Turkey and the historically Ottoman-ruled Balkans is raising its importance in the eyes of Moscow, and creating an opening for Russian geostrategists and Balkan experts like RISS's Lt. Gen. Leonid Reshetnikov to exploit the gap between the Atlanticist U.S. Embassy dominated elites in Sofia and the generally pro-Russian Bulgarian population:
Bulgaria, as most geo-politicians and neocons in Washington have forgotten or never knew, is the land from which Sts. Cyril and Methodius set out to win the Slavs to Orthodox Christianity in the early 8th century A.D.. These Orthodox Christian saints invented the Cyrillic alphabet that bears their name and is still used by 100s of millions across former Soviet Eurasia to this day. In other words, the ties between the Russians and Bulgarians cannot be dissolved by a couple decades of EU/NATO propaganda as the two peoples are closer phonetically and culturally than are the fellow Orthodox Christian Greeks from whose Byzantine Empire (aka the Second Rome) both Bulgarians and Russians received the one Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic faith of the Apostles.
Turkey's threats to send more Muslim migrants streaming into Bulgarian territory if the EU does not accede to its blackmail for visa free travel for Turks and billions of euros in subsidies have only hardened the attitude among Orthodox Christian and nationalistic Bulgarians that Turkey is, as it was for centuries, their enemy and that neo-Ottomans around Erdogan dream of re-occupying Bulgaria if not the entire Balkans by the mid-21st century using Islamic demographic preponderance as their weapon rather than Janissary shock troops. While a Russian-led alliance of Orthodox Christian countries against a reborn Ottoman Empire seems implausible today, the collapse of the European Union and the subsidies it uses to buy the loyalty of Balkan elites as well as an implosion of the dollar and NATO could mean Bulgaria's 21st century destiny is defined by the New Silk Road and Holy Orthodoxy, rather than the fleeting dominance of the (post)West.