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Bulgaria Table of Contents


Arms Sales

During the 1980s, Bulgaria annually exported an estimated US$250 to US$500 million worth of arms and military equipment. On one occasion, Zhivkov personally boasted of having arms supply relationships with thirty-six different countries. The Kintex foreign trade organization had responsibility for managing arms sales abroad. Beginning in the early 1960s, Bulgaria reportedly used its merchant ship fleet to deliver arms to socialist-oriented forces fighting civil wars in Algeria, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique and to leftist terrorist groups in Italy, Turkey, and the Middle East. Kintex allegedly was willing to accept narcotics from Turkish terrorists and other insurgent groups as payment for arms, a charge Bulgarian officials denied. A captured leader of the Italian Red Brigades asserted that Bulgaria was willing to provide weapons to his group during the early 1980s. One of Bulgaria's more infamous sales transferred sixty Soviet tanks to Nicaragua and trained seventy Nicaraguan pilots in 1983 and 1984, at the height of the Sandinista government's war against anticommunist rebels in that country.

Political change removed Kintex and its activities from the category of state secrets. In 1990 the trade organization revealed that it maintained contacts in fifty countries and sold them mainly small arms, ammunition, and tanks and combat aircraft retired from service with the BPA. The democratization of post-Zhivkov Bulgaria reportedly had the same downsizing effect on Kintex as it had on other defense-related enterprises. (see Logistics and Arms Procurement , this ch.). According to one source, arms exports to the Soviet Union declined from billions to several hundred million leva between the late 1980s and the early 1990s. Plans were announced to continue Bulgaria's arms sales under stricter legislative scrutiny and government control in the 1990s.

Data as of June 1992