For more than 15 years, the United States and the Republic of Bulgaria have enjoyed a robust security partnership as treaty Allies, with a shared commitment to the security of the Balkans, Eastern Mediterranean, and Black Sea regions. The United States works closely with Bulgaria on security cooperation activities, both bilaterally and through regional and multinational organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Over the last five years, the United States has provided more than $160 million in security assistance to Bulgaria to increase military professionalization, cyber security, divestiture of Soviet and Russian legacy equipment, maritime domain awareness, and NATO interoperability. At the forefront of the U.S.-Bulgaria security partnership is the 2006 U.S.-Bulgarian Defense Cooperation Agreement, which gives the United States military access to and shared use of several Bulgarian military facilities, such as the Novo Selo Training Area, and enables joint training between the U.S. and Bulgarian militaries. Additionally, the 10-year Roadmap for Defense Cooperation signed in 2020 establishes a framework for the continuous development of Bulgaria’s military readiness and capabilities through sustained defense cooperation.
With its purchase of eight F-16s, Bulgaria’s defense spending spiked to more than three percent of gross domestic product in fiscal year 2019. Bulgaria’s annual defense spending continues to increase on average and is on track to meet the NATO goal of two percent by 2024. Bulgaria is a participant in a U.S.-led Black Sea Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) project, along with Romania, Ukraine, and Georgia. Of the $142 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) the United States has contributed to this project, Bulgaria received $38.25 million. Additionally, from FY 2016 to FY 2020 the Department allocated over $45 million in FMF to enhance Bulgaria’s capabilities in military intelligence, secure communications, and defensive cyber security. A State Department-funded senior cybersecurity advisor to the Ministry of Defense will complement these efforts.
From FY 2016 to FY 2020, the Department also provided over $9.9 million in International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds for Bulgarian military personnel to participate in professional military education and technical training courses alongside their U.S. military counterparts. Since 1992, 5,280 Bulgarian security forces have received formal training from the United States, including 1,290 through the IMET program.
The United States has $1.352 billion in active government-to-government sales cases with Bulgaria under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system. FMS cases notified to Congress are listed here. The recent sale of F-16 fighters will provide Bulgaria with a fleet of modern multi-role combat aircraft, supporting Bulgaria’s capability to defend its airspace, bolstering regional security, and enhancing the Bulgarian Air Force’s interoperability with the United States and NATO.
From CY 2015 through CY 2019, the United States also authorized the permanent export of over $50 million in defense articles to Bulgaria via Direct Commercial Sales (DCS). The top categories of DCS to Bulgaria were Fire Control, Laser, Imaging, and Guidance Equipment; Ammunition/Ordnance; and Firearms, Close Assault Weapons, and Combat Shotguns.
In 2020, the Department of State and Bulgarian Ministry of Defense signed a Memorandum of Understanding whereby the United States provided $2 million in conventional weapons destruction (CWD) funding to help Bulgaria destroy its remaining cluster munitions.
In 1993, Bulgaria became one of the first countries to join the U.S. National Guard’s State Partnership Program (SPP), which was initially created to help build connections between the United States and former eastern-bloc countries and to professionalize their militaries. Over the past 27 years, Bulgaria and Tennessee have participated in over 600 military-to-military engagements, training exercises and cultural outreach events, which have promoted interoperability and mutual understanding. In October 2020, Bulgarian officials visited the Tennessee National Guard to discuss opportunities to build upon their relationship.
Bulgaria participates in multiple bilateral and multilateral military exercises with the United States, to include the Defender exercise series, Combined Resolve, Thracian Viper, and other joint U.S.-Bulgaria exercises. In 2019, there were 170 military-to-military engagements between Bulgaria and the United States with more than 2,800 Bulgarian participants, while more than 3,500 Bulgarian personnel participated in 19 U.S. sponsored exercises. In 2020, there were 77 military-to-military engagements between Bulgaria and the United States, with more than 1,350 Bulgarian participants, while more than 900 Bulgarian personnel participated in six U.S.-sponsored exercises. These engagements have helped make Bulgaria a more capable Ally and increased regional defense cooperation.
For further information, please contact the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at PM-CPA@state.gov, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs on Twitter, @StateDeptPM.