MONDAY, 22 February 2010
It's high time that Macedonia stopped suspecting Bulgaria of ill will; we are not in negotiations over the deployment of missile shield elements in Bulgaria, foreign minister Nikolay Mladenov said
As a full member of the EU, Bulgaria should take an active part in the Union's policy, but not act like a country that is aspiring to join it. This means we should change our mindset when it comes to making the country's foreign policy, newly appointed foreign minister Nikolay Mladenov said. A reporter of the Standart asked minister Mladenov how it came to the scandal with the US missile defense shield and who would be Bulgaria's new ambassadors in the vacated missions.
- The question about the deployment of a US missile shield in Bulgarian gave vent to heated discussions in Bulgaria over the past few days; so much so that the Bulgarian ambassador in Moscow, Plamen Grozdanov, was summoned for consultations at the Russian foreign ministry. What is Sofia actually telling Moscow, Mr. Mladenov?
- Bulgaria's ambassador in Russia was summoned at the foreign ministry in Moscow on another occasion but, of course, the question about the missile shield might have been discussed as well. In a nutshell, Mr. Grozdanov told his Russian colleagues that Bulgaria had never started negotiations on the possible deployment of elements of the US missile shield in its territory, but that it had participated together with its allies in the NATO in the development of a concept for a common missile defense system in Europe. This process of development has been going on for many years now. The threat against which this common missile defense shield is developed is valid as much for Bulgaria and the NATO, as it is for Russia.
- Do you think that the missile dispute might affect the bilateral relations between Bulgaria and Russia?
- There are a lot of projects on which hour two countries are working together. We share the same opinion on some issues, while we have different views on other. This is something natural. I do not think that this missile ado will affect the dialogue between our two countries.
- How do the Bulgarian-Russian energy projects develop?
- We should divide this question in two. Firstly, we have relations with Russia as two sovereign countries. Secondly, Bulgaria needs security of energy supply. No matter where the supply comes and no matter where it goes, no country should be 100% dependent on one source. This is the reason why for the last two months the Government has undertaken certain actions towards better flexibility of energy supply. This is a separate and a principal issue. The fact that a country should seek for diversification of energy sources and for security of energy supply does not mean that it is an attitude directed against Russia. The Bulgarian-Russian relations should be based on mutual understanding coming from both sides that we are sovereign countries who settle the problems they have in their relations within a normal dialogue. In this dialogue we settle all issues without excessive emotions. Because, I think, that to a great extent, the problem is that all this debates on the relations between Russia and Bulgaria end in an emotionally-charged discussion which switches polarities from hatred to adoration. You can hate or love a concrete person but not a whole country. For this reason we should remove the emotional part, arrange our priorities, so that we can know what is important for us, what is important for them and see where we can meet.
- What will be your politics towards Macedonia?
- We support Macedonia's integration in the EU and NATO structures. The question when this membership will actually happen is something which depends on the Macedonians. They have their way to go in negotiations as we had ours. But what they need is to free themselves from that constant suspicion that somebody in Bulgaria has bad intentions about them. Since the recognition of the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria has done its best to help, our policy has been completely benevolent. I hope we will witness what has been commented in Europe - it is not good that a candidate country constantly urges attitudes against Bulgaria. I can understand there is a lot of emotion in the case as well. Together, however, we can make much more than we can accomplish alone.
Jerusalem Post: ‘S-300 delivery a serious development’
BY YAAKOV LAPPIN
Analyst: Russia sends mixed messages on Iran deal to increase ME influence.
Russia is sending mixed messages about its pledge to deliver the advanced S-300 anti-missile system to Iran as part of an effort to increase its own influence over the Middle East, Israeli security analysts said on Sunday.
Should Teheran acquire the system, a potential military strike on Iranian nuclear sites could become far more difficult, but it remains far from clear when and if Moscow intends to transfer the military hardware to Iran.
“Russia does not want to see Iran a nuclear state, but short of that, it will be playing both sides – to ridiculous proportions,” said Emily Landau, senior research fellow and director, Arms Control and Regional Security Program, at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INNS).
“Right now, Russia is a little mad at the Iranians, because the Iranians rejected a nuclear fuel enrichment deal which would have seen uranium enriched by 20 percent in Russia,” Landau said.
“Russia has its own sense of strategic interests vis-a-vis the US and the Middle East, and right now it has no interest in being perceived to be on board any US agenda. They are a strategic rival of the US, and want to have a bigger role in the Middle East,” Landau added.
To that end, last week’s visit by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Russia, aimed at acquiring a guarantee from Moscow that it will not sell Iran the S-300, was seen by Russia as a very positive development. Netanyahu walked away from the meeting expressing confidence in Russia’s desire to maintain regional stability.
Yet just a few days after the visit, the Russian Interfax news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying that Russia would hold up the contract to deliver the anti-missile system to Iran.
“They’re changing their mind on the S-300 every few days, going back and forth. The fact that Netanyahu met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was good for Russia. It was a big meeting. Russia is seeking to gain power and influence from all sides,” Landau added.
The truck-mounted S-300 system can shoot down aircraft from a distance of 150 kilometers away, according to reports.
“If it is sold to Iran, it would mean they have a system many times more powerful than anything they have right now in terms of their defenses. It would seriously complicate Israeli contemplation of an attack, but we can’t know if it will be a game-changer. There is a whole set of considerations that Israel has to consider,” Landau said.
Ephraim Kam, deputy head of the INNS, and a former colonel in the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence, said additional factors that Israel must consider when considering an attack include assessing the level of intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program, weighing up operational abilities to strike and looking at the degree to which the nuclear sites can be damaged.
Other factors include assessing Iran’s potential responses and looking at possible American responses.
“The S-300 is just one of many factors Israel has to consider,” Kam said, adding, “The Russians seem to be pushing for more time before delivery.”