Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
The Russian embassy in Sofia has delivered a note to Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry seeking clarification after reports – officially and repeatedly denied by several senior Bulgarian Government figures – about negotiations about the US missile shield plan being extended to the country.
The Foreign Ministry statement on February 19 2010 was the latest in a series by Bulgaria seeking to clarify the position after, a week earlier, US ambassador in Sofia James Warlick was reported to have said that Bulgaria could be included in the missile shield system.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, Foreign Ministry Nikolai Mladenov and Warlick himself are among those who have underlined that there have been no formal negotiations about Bulgaria participating in the system, and that any discussions about defence systems have taken place only in the context of the Nato partnership.
On February 18, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Andrei Nesterenko said that Moscow was "confused" by what he described as contradictions in Bulgaria’s statements about the missile shield issue.
"We regard as incomprehensible the situation with Bulgaria’s contradictory statements about hosting elements of the US missile defence system," Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted Nesterenko as saying, according to Bulgarian news agency Focus.
Nesterenko said that Borissov had announced consultations, and this had been denied by the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, and US ambassador Warlick had confirmed the information and then denied it.
Earlier, speaking to journalists on February 15, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said: "We invariably presume that presidents Medvedev and Obama have agreed to co-operate on missile defence issues, starting with a joint assessment of the risks of missile proliferation.
"It was agreed that both Russia and the United States in matters relating to missile defence, will act in a transparent manner, particularly taking into account the fact that the US administration, having scrapped the GMD plan approved by the Bush administration, has developed its own missile defence scheme, aimed as we were told, against intermediate and shorter range missiles and not affecting the interests of Russia," Lavrov said, according to a Russian foreign ministry transcript.
"Therefore, when taking into account the agreement on transparency in the parties' actions, we learn from the media that some components of a US missile defence system will be deployed in this or that European country, then, of course, we ask how this fits with the current understandings and agreements on joint work and a transparent approach," he said.
"We would like to simply understand why it is happening this way. We mentioned this to our American partners, confirming that we want to abide strictly by the agreements between the presidents on joint work, by starting with an analysis of the risks of missile proliferation. I hope we get clarification on how they fit into this understanding, the steps that we're talking about," Lavrov said.
On February 19, the Foreign Ministry said in Sofia that in response to a note received that day from the Russian embassy, and in the spirit of transparency in bilateral relations, the ministry had affirmed that there had been no formal negotiations about deploying elements of missile defence in Bulgaria.
At the same, Bulgaria emphasised that the acquisition of weapons such as nuclear weapons and missile potential in violation of non-proliferation agreements and by terrorist networks was one of the most serious threats to collective security.
As a Nato member, "Bulgaria will continue to adhere strictly to the joint approach of Nato decision-making in the field of security, including with respect to missile defence," the Foreign Ministry said.