Bulgaria, a NATO member state, said it would invest €6bn ($6.5bn) on top of its defense budget to build road and railway infrastructure that could be used to rapidly deploy NATO forces when needed.

This will also include the building of oil pipelines, gas pipelines and new warehouses, but Bulgarian Defense Minister Todor Tagarev said the new infrastructure could also be used for civilian needs.

“We are working on all these issues, not only within the competence of the Ministry of Defense,” said Tagarev in an interview with bTV.

The reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank came as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which, ironically, is exactly what Russian President Vladimir Putin said he tried to avoid by invading Ukraine.

Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, Putin sent an ultimatum to the West that demanded the ban of Ukraine’s future entry into NATO and the withdrawal of NATO troops from Romania and Bulgaria, a move the West described as “non-starters.”

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Bulgaria’s plan to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank logistics is likely a result of the NATO summit in Vilnius in July last year.

“At the summit in Vilnius, it is now much clearer what it is all about,” said Tagarev. He added that there are plans for NATO member states on the eastern flank to “grow to brigade battle groups,” “up to about 5,000 people” according to Tagarev.

Currently, a multinational NATO battle group consisting of around 1,000 military personnel, led by Italy, is stationed in Bulgaria.

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Speaking of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zelensky said it was “important for our free states that the Putin regime loses. Our vision for Europe is based on the principle of dignity.”

There are plans to expand the group to 1,500 military personnel and build a new NATO base in southern Bulgaria, which would allow the formation of a brigade.

There have been numerous discussions concerning multinational troops deployment in Bulgaria, said Tagarev.

“The deployment of a multinational NATO battle group on our territory has been discussed tens or hundreds of times. During my visit to the USA, we talked about how to best provide the necessary infrastructure as a host country and how the United States can help us take advantage of the available international co-financing funds for its construction,” he said.

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Bulgaria’s plan to bolster the eastern flank also came amidst leaked documents from Germany that illustrated war scenarios between NATO and Russia this year. 

Bulgaria, a former communist state, has been a NATO member since 2004. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has been rapidly modernizing its military and replacing its old Soviet arsenal.

According to Euractiv, Bulgaria has purchased new F-16 fighter jets for $2.4 billion, 200 US Stryker infantry fighting vehicles for $1.1 billion and is building two new patrol ships in its attempt to modernize its military.

It also aimed to become a regional center to repair and maintain Stryker combat vehicles, according to Tagarev.

However, due to its historical background, it also remains one of the major manufacturers of Soviet munitions the West has been supplying to Ukraine, which attracted multiple Russian sabotage attempts

There were also talks of Russian infiltration within the Bulgarian government, but the new coalition government elected in July last year has vowed to crack down on Russian influence in its security sector.

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