NATO 'Recommends Western Equipment' to Bulgaria
NATO representatives have suggested that Bulgaria start the modernization of its army using Western-originated units and equipment.
The alliance's recommendation was part of its report on the condition of Bulgaria's military, according to Presa Daily, which cites a source from the government.
Apart from the Air Force, such a move should also involve the infantry, where Russian arms, which are building the main capacities, were bought some 30 years ago.
A new type of fighter is described as a "must" in the document which cannot be made public on the grounds of confidentiality.
NATO believes Sofia should take steps to boost defense spending from 1.3% of GDP to "at least" 1.5%. A commitment to increase expenditures in the sector to 2% was accepted when Bulgaria joined the alliance back in 2004.
Earlier in April, President Rosen Plevneliev also spoke in favour of an increased defense budget, but his calls have so far provoked no decisions by cabinet.
The report comes amid personnel cuts implemented in the army, with 1300 civil and military staff to be laid off by end-2014 in the words of Defense Minister Angel Naydenov.
It also follows the announcement of government representatives that Bulgaria is to buy new fighter jets to bolster capacities of its Air Forces in response to the situation in Ukraine.
No decision has however been taken as to whether Sofia will purchase "Western" or Russian units or will just opt for a modernization of the aircraft at disposal.
NATO's report also coincides with weeks of measures to step up the defense at the eastern flank of the alliance over possible threats from Russia, which has been building up troops at its western borders over the Ukrainian crisis.
These moves include the stationing of more vessels belonging to the US and other nations in the Black Sea.
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