Bulgaria has established and is now leading a NATO multinational battle group.
It's an important step in the face of nearby Russian aggression in Ukraine and the United States fully supports it, said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.
Austin and Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov held a joint press conference today in Bulgaria.
U.S. and Bulgarian forces are training together, and Bulgaria is also working on important defense modernization efforts as outlined in a bilateral 10-year roadmap for defense cooperation, the secretary said.
"Your commitment is a model for other allies to follow. Improving Bulgaria's military readiness and NATO interoperability is even more vital today," he said.
The secretary also thanked the prime minister for Bulgaria taking in more than 80,000 refugees as a result of Russia's aggression against Ukraine.
"In our conversation, the prime minister and I were both struck by the courage and the conviction of the Ukrainian people. They're fighting against huge odds to defend their country. And their struggle is crucial for the rules-based international order and for the common values that Bulgaria and United States share," the secretary said.
Petkov said America has shown tremendous support to Bulgaria.
Unfortunately, there is now not a single country that can live with the illusion that they are safe and secure since the Russian invasion began, he said.
"No one can defend themselves alone. Our security lies with the collective security with our allies within NATO," he said.
The United States has agreed to provide a Stryker unit to contribute to the battle group in Bulgaria, he said, mentioning that the battle group commander will be a Bulgarian.
That sends a strong signal to other NATO allies to also help boost Bulgaria's military forces, he said.
The prime minister also said the U.S. and Bulgaria discussed logistics and ways to better facilitate troop movements such as building roads, railroads and a bridge over the Danube River.