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Bulgaria Table of Contents


Chapter 5. National Security


Thracian warrior in Roman mural, Serditsa

IN 1991 BULGARIA GRAPPLED with political changes and economic difficulties that threatened its national security. The country's most intractable problems were internal crises rather than external threats. The Warsaw Pact (see Glossary), which had guided national security policy since 1955, became defunct as a military organization on April 1, 1991. A concurrent shift from one-party communist rule to multiparty politics made the future political character and role of the Bulgarian People's Army (BPA) uncertain. Grave economic problems also portended that a smaller proportion of national resources would be devoted to defense in the future. The European strategic environment seemed less tense and threatening than at any time in the recent past, largely because of the waning of the Cold War; however, the more immediate situation in the Balkans appeared less secure in 1991. Neighboring countries Yugoslavia and Greece were apprehensive that Bulgarians might renew their interest in the Greater Bulgaria established briefly under the Treaty of San Stefano in 1878.

The Bulgarian military establishment was substantial and well equipped considering the small size and population of the country. One expert observer described it aptly as a regional force of significance. The data exchanged at the signing of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE--see Glossary) on November 19, 1990, revealed previously unknown details on the command organization, structure, strength, and disposition of Bulgaria's ground and air forces. The BPA appeared to be a relatively cohesive force without serious ethnic or other internal fragmentation. Despite the end of the Warsaw Pact, a continued military relationship with the Soviet Union was expected, based on genuine affinity and mutual interest between the two countries. In the late 1980s, Bulgaria imitated several major military reforms then being introduced in the Soviet Armed Forces, which long had served as the model for developing Bulgaria's armed forces. The BPA instituted unilateral force reductions, restructuring, defense industry conversion, and a new openness in military affairs that imitated Soviet glasnost (see Glossary).

In 1991 Bulgaria's uncertain internal security situation reflected the unsettled state of politics and the economy. Increased political freedom, economic hardship, and inability or reluctance of the governments that followed the regime of Todor Zhivkov (1962-89) to use force or coercion against the population created the potential for domestic unrest. These factors made possible increased reliance on the internal security apparatus, and ultimately the BPA, to maintain order and even to carry out basic government functions. In the immediate post-Zhivkov years, the army was the pivotal institution protecting legitimate national security interests and territorial integrity during the transition to democracy and the rule of law.

Data as of June 1992