You are currently viewing In the West but Unlike the Rest: The Bulgarian Defence’s Difficult Path Toward Interoperability

In the West but Unlike the Rest: The Bulgarian Defence’s Difficult Path Toward Interoperability

Written by: Riccardo Angelo Grassi

Edited by: Manfred Sintorn

Supervised by: Syuzanna Kirakosyan

As part of NATO’s Eastern flank, Bulgaria’s defence capabilities are crucial to European security. While Sofia has embarked on crucial reforms since the fall of the Communist bloc in 1991, its Armed Forces are still far from being at the same level as its NATO allies. Nevertheless, Bulgaria is boldly enhancing its military power. Initiatives such as its accession to FINABEL show the political commitment to share defence and interoperability.

With the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, Bulgaria started a long process of democratisation and liberalisation that brought it towards the West. Economic and political stability, along with guarantees for its security and sovereignty, attracted Bulgaria to both NATO and the EU, which Sofia joined in 2004 and 2007, respectively. Nevertheless, Bulgaria still faces issues in becoming interoperable with its allies and achieving operational effectiveness.

This analysis aims to identify and delineate Bulgaria’s land forces deficiencies and the steps it has taken to address its weaknesses, arguing that Bulgaria would greatly benefit from modernising its defence capabilities in a European framework. This paper begins by summarising the evolution of the Bulgarian Armed Forces (BAF) since the fall of the Communist regime. It continues by presenting the flaws in the BAF, mainly regarding its equipment and obstacles to modernisation. Lastly, it underlines Bulgarian efforts and possible ways forward. Bulgaria recently signalled a strong commitment to its defence and meeting Western military standards by joining FINABEL as its 25th member, so it is fitting to review Sofia’s efforts in defence modernisation and alignment.