donderdag, maart 06, 2003

Bulgaria, The Forgotton Ally?

"Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock." --Will Rogers

With the foreign ministers of France, Russia and Germany issuing a joint statement yesterday stating they would not "let a proposed resolution pass that would authorize the use of force.", the meretricious and splenetic Bush Administration has become increasingly isolated in the world over its determination to topple the Iraqi government.

Administration officials have said they expect a Security Council vote on a new United Nations resolution authorizing an invasion of Iraq by the end of next week but to date, only the resolution's sponsors (The U.S., England and Spain) and Bulgaria currently are committed to vote yes.

You might wonder, as Desultory Turgescence did, what possible motive could Bulgaria have in voting for war? Maureen Dowd of the New York Times has already had her fun at the expense of the Bulgarians, opining that the United States "dragoon Bulgaria to offset France dragooning Cameroon," so we have an idea of why the Bush Administration is so suddenly infatuated, but Bulgarians must also be asking themselves, as they like to in the Red Mafia, "What's in it for me?"

Are they still pissed off about the rule of the Ottoman Empire? Are they looking to jeopardize their chances at EU membership or bolster their pending 2004 NATO membership? Are they still angry they didn't qualify for the 2002 World Cup? Or, hmmm, could it have something to do with the United States granting Bulgaria the coveted economic status of "market economy" which will protect Bulgarian companies from charges that they are selling products in the United States at an unfairly low price, a practice known as dumping? Even without the UN resolution vote, Bulgaria has received more than $420 million from the U.S. government in the last decade.

Any number of reasons are possible. Besides increasing aid to Bulgaria, the Bush Administration has already pledged to see to it that Iraq pays its outstanding debts to Bulgaria in the post-Saddam period which amount to $1.7 billion.

According to Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lyubomir Todorov, upon membership in NATO, the moving of US military bases to Bulgaria would be a natural result of NATO enlargement. Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov said that if US military bases were established in Bulgaria, the redeployment of US troops from Germany to Bulgaria would be very likely.

In addition, Bulgarian support of the United States could potentially come at a price for the Black Sea port of Bourgas. Iraqi charge d'affaires in Sofia Yahia Salih Mahdi said in Bourgas on Wednesday. "All US bases across the world will be targets of our strikes. The true Muslim has to choose between victory and death," He added that seven million people have been armed and prepared to defend Iraq. In his opinion, the probable strikes against Iraq might begin from Burgas where US troops are being stationed.

The Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy harshly criticized Mahdi, saying "I think that all ambassadors who are accredited in Bulgaria have to carefully measure their words and to limit them to the diplomatic tone," Passy commented before the regular weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers on Thursday.

So yes, there are plenty of incentives for Bulgaria to side with the Bush Administration. However, before Americans start memorizing the poetry of Ivan Vazov or learn the words to the Bulgarian national anthem, it should be remembered that this isn't the first time Bulgaria has sided with a country in its efforts of war.

In 1941, in return for promises from the Third Reich of gaining back the ever-desirable Macedonian lands, Bulgaria sided with the Nazi and Axis powers. However, much to their credit, Bulgaria's wartime government refused to hand over its 50,000 Jewish citizens to the Nazis in 1943 despite its military alliance with Germany. In fact, tomorrow, the Bulgarian National Bank will issue 2000 silver coins to mark the occasion of 60th anniversary of the rescue of 48,000 Bulgarian Jews.

The next thing the Bulgarian government may need to rescue is themselves. A February 11 Gallup International poll found that only 28% of Bulgarians support a war against Iraq, even if endorsed by the UN Security Council and unless the financial appreciation of the Bush Administration starts pouring in soon, Bulgarians may not be too interested in what their government has to say much longer.

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