Mr. Vershbow addressed the current strategic landscape and what NATO is doing to respond. “Significantly, we face strategic threats from two different directions at the same time. On the one hand, a more assertive Russia is challenging international law and the sovereignty of its neighbours, with its illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilization of Eastern Ukraine”, Mr. Vershbow said. “On the other hand”, he added, “instability and violence in our southern doorstep risks spilling over into Allied territory in the form of terrorism and uncontrolled migration”. The NATO Deputy Secretary General underlined that because of Bulgaria’s location at the intersection of these two threats, they are of great concern and the Alliance benefits greatly from Bulgaria’s insight and experience.
Referring to NATO’s response to the threats in the South, the Deputy Secretary General said that NATO is stepping up efforts to “project stability” across the region as a whole by expanding the Alliance’s efforts to build greater defence capacity. “Training, advising and assisting local forces so that they are better able to secure their own countries and, where appropriate, to support and train others. This is something that we are already doing for countries like Iraq, Jordan and Tunisia”, he said.
Mr. Vershbow highlighted that both challenges - a more assertive Russia, and instability in the Middle East and North Africa – will be very high on the agenda at the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July, where the Alliance will be making decisions to further strengthen collective defence and deterrence.
“We have already implemented a series of assurance measures for our eastern Allies, which also have an important deterrence effect”, he said. “These include AWACS surveillance flights, and the intensification of NATO maritime patrols in the Black Sea itself. And as part of the European Reassurance Initiative, the US plans to expand its exercises and training with NATO Allies and partners, and to augment prepositioned equipment – including in both Bulgaria and Romania,” – the Deputy Secretary General added.
Mr. Vershbow welcomed the recent announcement by the Bulgarian government to increase and modernize Bulgaria’s air and naval assets. He added that along with spending more money on defence, Allies need to ensure the ability of their militaries to cooperate against common threats. “Cooperation between Allies – especially between our Black Sea Allies Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, and involving the United States, will be key to the security challenges we face”, he added.
On Friday (22 April) Mr. Vershbow is also meeting Minister of Foreign Affairs Daniel Mitov and Minister of Defence Nikolay Nenchev.