Transcript

Remarks by Defense Secretary Esper and Bulgarian Minister of Defense Karakachanov During Bilateral Meeting

Oct. 6, 2020
Secretary Of Defense Mark T. Esper; Bulgarian Minister of Defense Krasimir Karakachanov

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE MARK T. ESPER: Well, Mr. Minister, it is a pleasure to welcome you and your team to the Pentagon as we continue to strengthen defense cooperation and relationship between the United States and Bulgaria.

I remember fondly the warm hospitality I felt when I visited Bulgaria as secretary of the Army in 2018 to observe exercises and visit our facilities at Novo Selo Training Area.

That visit highlighted for me the critical role that Bulgaria plays in protecting NATO's eastern flank.

The United States of course is grateful for the strong defense cooperation between our two countries.

We of course share many security interests, particularly issues such as Black Sea security, defense modernization, and security cooperation.

We also appreciate your contributions to the alliance and your commitment to defense modernization and NATO interoperability.

Your continued investments in defense set a strong example for other partner nations, particularly in 2019 when Bulgaria reached defense spending over 3 percent of GDP, attributed to your purchase of F-16s.

I encourage you and our other alliance members to continue to push for 2 percent of the GDP spending target, and to make the needed investments to enhance your capability and capacity. As you know, I believe that 2 percent should be a floor, not a ceiling.

We will continue to stand together as NATO allies to counter the malign influence of our adversaries, boost readiness, and strengthen our mutual security.

It is my pleasure to sign this 10-year roadmap for defense cooperation with you today, through which I am confident we will continue to advance our shared security interests.

This document establishes a framework for the continuous development of Bulgaria's military readiness and capabilities over the next decade through sustained cooperation between our two nations.

So thank you again, Mr. Minister, for your visit today, your second one to the Pentagon, your first as minister of defense. And I look forward to our discussions to strengthen our defense relationship and our security cooperation. Thank you.

MINISTER OF DEFENSE KRASIMIR KARAKACHANOV (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you for all the kind words.

Please excuse my voice, but that happens with the change of seasons.

Knowing this, I shouldn't have spent my evening out. I had a cigarette, but I should have listened to General Holmes, who advised me to try the Tennessee whiskey so --

(Laughter.)

-- you see, this is the result.

But once again, thank you for your kind words.

It is true that the roadmap for defense cooperation with a 10-year period is a very important document.

This is yet another step that the United States and Bulgaria are taking in their defense relations, after the Defense Cooperation Agreement, the DCA, that we signed in 2006.

And this roadmap will give us a chance to not only intensify our bilateral defense relations, but also to be mutually beneficial for each other's national defense, also to be beneficial to NATO and, like you rightly said, to be able to counter the malign intentions of our adversaries.

It is true that Bulgaria has made huge efforts over the past three or four years with regard to the modernization of its armed forces.

And I am truly pleased by having the chance to sign a contract with one of the biggest companies here in the United States -- that's Lockheed Martin.

It was the contract on the acquisition of eight F-16 Block 70s.

And you know it is our intention to continue work and to take work further in this direction.

With Lockheed Martin, we could not only proceed to purchasing another batch of F-16 Block 70s, but if God is willing, maybe we will proceed to F-35s one day.

We had a chance to meet with our colleagues from Lockheed Martin.

Because in addition to the fighter aircraft, we are also interested in the acquisition of (inaudible) radars.

So again, I’m thinking that this is only a step in the right direction and in developing further our cooperation.

I also want to convey my deepest gratitude to the administration's President Trump through you because Bulgaria is now eligible for dependable undertaking term of sale, which means that we will be able to use this in any future contracts for the acquisition of weaponry and armaments.

So once again, thank you for your hospitality and once again, please excuse my voice.

SEC. ESPER: Well, thank you, Mr. Minister. I think at this time, we are going to sign the roadmap for defense cooperation.