Rear Admiral Dimitar Denev
Historically, Southern Europe and the Middle East have been the origin for conflicts and wars. For example, the Balkan Peninsula has been called the powder keg of Europe. Unfortunately, the contemporary security environment in the Black Sea and Mediterranean regions has become relatively unstable and risky once again. Ethnic, religious, economic, and historic contradictions have caused interstate, bilateral, and multinational armed conflicts. In addition, the Black Sea region is increasingly important for sea lines of communication, oil- and natural-gas pipelines, and offshore hydrocarbon fields. These transportation corridors and resources create additional security requirements.
This international security situation has led to changes in Bulgaria’s national maritime-security strategy. Bulgarian Navy operations are no longer “locked” exclusively in the Black Sea. A combination of this security environment and Bulgaria’s membership in NATO and the European Union has created new force requirements. The navy is required to participate in operations for defense and sovereignty protection in Bulgarian waters as well as in combined operations in remote areas. Both kinds of operations require a force capable of conducting classic combat activities, such as antisubmarine, antiair, mine, and surface warfare and nontraditional warfighting operations like counter-piracy, counterterrorism, arms-control activities, post-conflict rebuilding, provision of humanitarian relief, and support in case of natural disasters. These kinds of operations increase requirements for the capabilities to provide national security, participate in combined operations other than war, and engage in collective defense of an allied state. Participation in combined maritime task forces, such as Standing NATO Maritime Groups and Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group, requires platform modernization.
Maintaining a force capable of fulfilling all these requirements is difficult for many large and wealthy states. Therefore, it is no surprise that requirements for such capabilities and modernization exceed Bulgaria’s national resources. Herein lies the importance of partner states that can assist in education, training, technology transfers, and funding, which are of great importance for development of the Bulgarian Navy. The largest and most scalable partners for the Bulgarian Navy are the United States and our neighboring allies Romania and Turkey. Partnerships play, and will continue to play, a significant role for the Bulgarian Navy. They fill gaps and allow us to combine capabilities to save time and resources. Lack of partnerships with large international allies, like the U.S. Navy, would push the Bulgarian Navy back to the brown waters.