USA to get its share of failed Russian energy projects in Bulgaria

Photo: BGNES

As he was leaving for the US, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov stated he would not allow a NATO military base in the Bulgarian Black Sea area. Borissov rarely wastes words, he knew that nobody in Washington would ask something like this of Bulgaria. All the more so that President Donald Trump usually wants the hosting country to cover the maintenance costs of the US troops, and Bulgaria is not in a condition to do so. Bulgaria is offering a sufficient number of rotational training bases to the Pentagon contingent, and if the need arises, as was the case in 2003, the country will provide full logistics for the operations in the Middle East. Moreover the entry of foreign warships into the Black Sea is governed not by NATO or USA, but by the Montreux convention. Allied NATO ships sailing according to schedule off Bulgaria’s coast are always welcome in Bulgarian ports. So that, as he was about to leave for the US, such a pacifist gesture targeted at the Eastern coast of the Black Sea, the place we are still expecting to see Russian tourists coming from, was not difficult for Boyko Borissov to make.

The visit by the Bulgarian prime minister to the White House is part of a series of meetings President Trump is having with leaders from Eastern Europe. To the US, we are part of the puzzle that will piece together its interests in the region of the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. To Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov’s visit to Washington DC is an opportunity to bring forth Bulgaria’s interests in consistency with the American policy in Southeastern Europe.

Both sides made their offers before the Bulgarian delegation left for Washington. In this delegation there were two people conspicuous by their absence – Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva and Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova. As a harbinger of developing bilateral relations, this summer Sofia purchased American F16 jet fighters. The American side is well aware of the fact that Bulgaria is afraid of losing its status of a gas transiting country in the region. As it is aware that after the South Stream, Bulgaria cannot affords to miss out on TurkStream, all the more so that geographically, it is only logical that its pipes cut along the diagonal from Thrace to Central Europe. But the year is no longer 2014. In these five years the long-awaited Azeri gas reached the country’s borders. Soon we shall have access to liquefied American and Mediterranean gas. The EU gas directives were also changed. To create an alternative to Russian gas to be stored at the Banatski Dvor hub in Serbia, the Americans are ready to support Boyko Borissov’s idea to build a gas hub on Bulgarian territory for the alternative storage of Azeri and American gas. It too will compete with the Russian gas along the Bulgarian pipeline to Europe. In exchange for the implementation of this idea Washington wants us to purchase 20 percent of the Alexandroupolis gas terminal and assume the obligation to buy 20 percent of the supplied volumes which will be sold at spot prices. Of course we shall have to include the American side in the diversification of the Bulgarian nuclear sector. The White House is holding firmly to its share of the failed “grand slam” of the Bulgarian energy industry – the Belone NPP, the South Stream gas corridor and the Burgas-Alexandroupolis corridor. The question is: what does Bulgaria stand to gain in exchange? A gas hub Balkan and visa-free travel to USA hardly suffice. What we are hoping to see are American investments, in exchange the US wants to see supremacy of law and drastic measures against corruption in Bulgaria.

During his meeting with Boyko Botrissov at the White House, Donald Trump displayed willingness to accept the invitation to visit Bulgaria and that is good news. Sofia is the place for sending out messages to the Western Balkans. And if and when he does come, Boyko Borissov would certainly be eager to take the American President to the Greece-Bulgaria border to cut the ribbon of the gas interconnector to the Alexandroupolis terminal. By that time many other things from the conversation at the Oval Office will probably have transpired.

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