USA Patting Suspicious Regimes on the Back Again. This Time Bulgaria's!
Or how to reconcile WikiLeaks cables with formal praise from the US government...
Even though it was objectively ignored by leading international media, the meeting of US President Barack Obama with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in DC deserves attention as an example of how the US government is prepared to shower semi-democratic regimes that are allied to it with undeserved praise.
It is clear that Bulgaria is a tight ally of the USA. It's doesn't really have much choice. But it has no way of being a first-rate US ally regardless of the rhetoric employed by both parties at the Borisov-Obama meeting because of its modest size and population, ridiculous economy and armed forces, and dependence on other powers; in the international arena Bulgaria can be ranked as a fourth-rate power at beast, on a scale of 1 to 5.
What is more, in their exaggerated courtesy the authors of Obama's speech before his meeting with Borisov went too far by describing the Prime Minister of Bulgaria as an influential global leader – even the stray dogs in Sofia that born during Borisov's term as city mayor are well aware that any moderately successful American rapper wields greater international influence than the Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria regardless of whether he is called Borisov, Stanishev, or Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
In any case, Bulgaria's "brotherly alliance" with the USA, where an entire 3 to 5% of the population are probably aware of such a country's existence, many of them Bulgarian immigrants, would be a great thing if in Bulgaria we actually had a working Wester-style liberal democracy instead of an oligarchy-dominated semi-police state wearing the coat of parliamentarianism.
And Obama's talk about Boyko Borisov being a reformer, etc., was just too much. Especially when keeping in mind the fact that Borisov is probably the only acting Prime Minister of a de jure democratic state who is claimed to have been involved in organized crime activity in the past according to some of the top secret US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in the past two years. These cables were authored by the US Ambassadors, and were wired from the US Embassy in Sofia to the State Department in Washington, DC, between 2003 and 2009.
In the rare occasions in which Borisov himself has addressed these claims, he has always denied them using two arguments.
The first one is that these are insinuations made up by his political opponents. And that is said to be the case even though his ruling party GERB doesn't really seem to enjoy any political opponents – the theatrically collaborationist opposition in the face of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) seems to be clapping hands the way the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Unon (BZNS), the officially-appointed opposition, applauded the rule of the Bulgarian Communist Party in the past. Not to mention that hardly anybody in these parties seem to be inventive enough to even think of pulling off a procedure such as the release of fake top secret US diplomatic cables.
This argument, however, leads to another question: if what are said to be secret US diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks is in fact a pile of lies and insinuations, why have the US authorities been keeping behind bars private Bradley Manning, who is believed to have leaked the cables to WikiLeaks, for the past two years with no sentence? And why is he going to be tried for espionage and may end spending the rest of his life in jail? And why did the most renowned international media cooperate with WikiLeaks in the publication of the cables?
Borisov's second argument for the fallacy of the leaked US diplomatic cables is the fact that the US government and the "partners' [intelligence] services" such as the CIA have been patting him on the back the entire time. So how can they be praising their cooperation while also writing such secret reports about him?
Of course, this question shyly omits the fact that the CIA has a long record of collaboration with all kinds of dictators, authoritarian leaders, and corrupt statesmen anywhere in the world – as long as they serve its goals. Reversely, the CIA is known to have been cooking plots against legitimate state leaders – ever since the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in the DR Congo in 1960. So pretty much anything hypocritical is possible.
But let's leave that aside for a moment – because the information about Borisov's so called "dark past" is not the most important thing, including for Bulgaria's relations with the USA. What really matters is that Bulgaria remains a "dark place" where the hardship is much greater. Not to mention the fact that the majority of the Bulgarians, who voted for Borisov while being aware of his background in the security business and the police services, apparently don't care about the past that much as long as their country registers some progress. Unfortunately, there is no such progress in the economy, society, or politics of Bulgaria.
Nonetheless, since the US government is well aware of the colossal problems in Bulgaria having to do with the rule of law, organized crime, judiciary, oligarchy circles, the functioning of democracy's basics, it is unworthy of US President Barack Obama to be going for such intensive back patting that Borisov was probably gasping for breath.
So back in George W. Bush days the United States was "exporting" democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan, and now it appears to be encouraging its regress in what are supposed to be already democratized new Western countries such as Bulgaria.
What is more, in his secret diplomatic cable about Borisov's "dark past", one of the stars of the contemporary US diplomacy – Ambassador John Beyrle – who is now the US Ambassador in Moscow – explains in detail how sensitive Boyko is when it comes to getting some back tapping, and how the US should be wheedling him with care so that he can be pushed in the right direction. That is, Borisov would be susceptible to US pressure for reforms, for example.
Borisov himself apparently needs some encouraging when it comes to respecting democracy. In the recent months, he has threatened protesting citizens from the northeastern city of Dobrich that they shouldn't be annoying him because he would grant a shale gas concession to defy them; he has told journalists to show [his "achievements"] and keep quiet; he has accused those criticizing the work of the Interior Ministry of aiding the "mafia". And according to Beyrle's cable, he used to bribe journalists to get positive coverage of his work as a Chief Secretary of the Interior back in the days.
By the way, the Borisov-Obama meeting also made it clear that the terrorist attack at Bulgaria's Burgas Airport on July 18, 2012, which killed 5 Israelis and 1 Bulgarian, will become something like the assassination of John F. Kennedy – the public will never know who the real perpetrators are or who ordered it. Most likely, for political reasons. But another conclusion is more important.
As a citizen of the Republic of Bulgaria educated in Grafton County, New Hampshire, I would like to express my gratitude to the US government for tapping the back of its allied suspicious regimes instead of pressuring them to reform and democratize. I guess one can never get enough of that!
I am now inclined to agree with those who allege that if Bulgaria wasn't a member of the European Union, with all of its faltering, we would have a full-fledged authoritarian regime – not unlike the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, which is now also being tackled by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov – on behalf of the western democracies.
But when it comes to pressure and support for Bulgaria's democratization, the USA is more and more of a disappointment. Regardless of the fact that their secret diplomatic cables provide informative concise accounts of the Bulgarian reality.
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