Emerging from the Nato Lisbon summit that agreed that a planned missile shield will cover all the alliance’s countries – and that could bring Russia into the defence system – Bulgaria’s leaders indicated that the country does not seem likely to be called on to commit much in the way of spending or even deployment of the system on Bulgarian territory.
"Missile defence will become an integral part of our overall defence posture," a declaration issued by heads of state and government after the North Atlantic Council meeting on November 20 said.
United States president Barack Obama, who has been a leading advocate for expanding the missile defence concept, said that the agreement was the missile defence capability would cover all Nato European populations, as well as the US.
Sofia has been a keen supporter of expansion of the shield and of bringing Russia into the system.
Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov said he was very satisfied with the outcome of the Nato summit, including that the anti-missile defence system had been confirmed as a priority for the alliance. However, according to a report by Bulgarian National Radio, this country’s inclusion did not necessarily mean that elements of the system would be deployed on Bulgarian territory.
Defence Minister Anyu Angelov similarly said that it was possible that no elements of the shield would be deployed in Bulgaria. The country’s financial participation would be limited, Angelov said, a point also made by President Georgi Purvanov, who was head of the Bulgarian delegation to the Nato summit.
Purvanov said that the summit had not discussed details of the deployment of the separate elements of the anti-missile defence shield. What had been important was that agreement in principle had been secured.
The declaration by heads of state and government reaffirmed the alliance’s readiness "to invite Russia to explore jointly the potential for linking current and planned missile defence systems at an appropriate time in mutually beneficial ways".
The statement made no reference to any specific country against which Nato was seeking to defend itself, reportedly at the insistence of Turkey which did not want its neighbour Iran mentioned in this context. However, in Lisbon French president Nicolas Sarkozy said "let’s call a spade a spade – today’s missile threat, it’s Iran".
Reportedly, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has proposed to Nato leaders that the system divides the military protection of Europe between the former Cold War rivals.
Medvedev said on November 20 that a "sectoral" missile defence system would be most acceptable to his country. The Voice of America reported Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as saying that details of the proposed co-operation would be worked out ahead of a meeting of Nato and Russian defence ministers in June 2011.