NATO to Boost Presence in Black Sea
NATO will increase its presence in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region, its Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Friday, while on a visit to Bulgaria.
More naval drills are to be conducted involving alliance members, and air defense is due to be bolstered in response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, Rasmussen told Bulgarian president Rosen Plevneliev, Dariknews.bg reports.
We have already taken some steps [to boost collective defense]. We have increased military presencee in the Baltic military airspace.
We have deployed AWACS [Airborne Warning and Control System] over Romania and Poland to enhance monitoring. We have also expanded our presence in the Black Sea.
Additional measures based on recommendations by our military authorities must be taken and we are to discuss this in the next few weeks," Rasmussen was quoted by Mediapool Agency as saying.
He stressed that collective action might involve "updating defense plans, extended maneuvers and new deployment of armed forces".
Rasmussen commented Bulgaria's wavering whether to buy new fighter jets by explaining that it is a matter of national sovereignty, but whatever is decided, new military units must be "compatible with the aircraft and defense systems of the other allies". In end-March the Foreign Ministry said it was mulling to buy new Russian fighter jets in order to decrease military dependence on Russia.
Earlier on Friday, NATO's presence in the Black Sea increased after a second US destroyer, USS Donald Cook, and the French intelligence surveillance ship Dupuy de Lome entered its waters.
During his meeting with the President he was awarded the Stara Planina Order, while a few hours earlier he received the Sveti Georgi Medal of Honor 1st degree by Defense Minister Angel Naydenov.
Rasmussen is also due to meet Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin on Friday.
During the meeting of Rasmussen and Plevneliev, MPs and supporters of ultra-nationalist party Ataka staged a protest against the NATO Secretary-General's visit to Bulgaria.
Ataka's leader Volen Siderov said that unclear motives lie behind Rasmussen's meeting with Bulgarian officials. He also showed a "pumpkin order" to his supporters, which he said Rasmussen should receive.
His party called on Bulgaria to leave NATO and warned the alliance against embroiling the country in a war with Russia.
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