Bulgaria’s prime minister ruled out participation in plans to form a united NATO Black Sea naval task force to counter the Russian Navy in the region. The president of Romania said the initiative is about joint drills, not maintaining a separate fleet.
“I always say that I want the Black Sea to see sailboats, yachts, large boats with tourists and not become an arena of military action … I do not need a war in the Black Sea,” Reuters cited Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boiko Borisov as saying at a media briefing.
“To send warships as a fleet against Russian ships exceeds the limit of what I can allow,” Borisov told reporters in Sofia on Thursday, as cited by Bloomberg. “To deploy destroyers, aircraft carriers near [the resort cities of] Bourgas or Varna during the tourist season is unacceptable.”
After the USS Porter (DDG-78), armed with assault cruise missiles and an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (primary weapon: Standard Missile 3), entered the Black Sea last week, Moscow promised “response measures” to Washington.
“If a decision is made to create a permanent force, of course, it would be destabilizing, because this is not a NATO sea,” Russian news agencies quoted senior Foreign Ministry official Andrey Kelin as saying.
“Let’s stop with the speculations that fleets will be set up against anyone,” Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev stressed, adding that “Bulgaria is a peaceful country and its foreign policy is not aimed at anyone.”
President of Romania Klaus Iohannis, who visited Bulgaria on June 15-16, and discussed the initiative with both Borisov and Plevneliev, has said the initiative’s sole purpose is “practical cooperation in joint exercise.”
Iohannis called the news about NATO fleet in the Black Sea a “misconception.”
“Nobody wants to create NATO fleet. That’s nonsense. NATO has neither the resources nor the desire to maintain a Black Sea fleet,” Iohannis said as cited by TASS.
Countries without a Black Sea maritime border are banned from keeping their warships in the area for over 21 days under the Montreux Convention.
According to Iohannis, discussions on forming a joint naval task force in the Black Sea were initiated about a year ago, after in spring 2014 citizens of the Crimean Peninsula voted in a referendum in favor of reunification with Russia. It enabled Moscow to regain full control of its long-standing naval military stronghold and its vast harbor in the city of Sevastopol. Up to that time it had been leased from Ukraine.