February 12th 2010, Sheraton Hotel, Sofia
The US Ambassador to Bulgaria H.E. James B. Warlick delivered a keynote speech “New Partnership: Shared Values, Common Interests” before the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria at the Sheraton Hotel in Sofia, Bulgaria, on the 12th of February 2010. The event was organized by the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria with the cooperation of the Open Society Institute.
H.E. began with the historical roots of US-Bulgarian relations by making a reference to the newspaper articles by the American journalist Januarius MacGahan, who reported on the Bulgarian April Uprising in 1876 against the Ottoman Empire. “His articles created enormous sympathy for the Bulgarians among average Americans, and are the foundation of a relationship between our peoples that has been strong ever since.” said the Ambassador.
Following the speech, Mr. Warlick talked about the past and current partnership between the USA and Bulgaria: “The partnership between the United States and Bulgaria has experienced profound changes, in a short period of time. We have overcome the burdens of history and geography, of Cold War animosity and post-Cold War uncertainty. Today we stand together as treaty allies sworn to protect each other’s security, and as political partners working together to enhance stability throughout this region“. In addition, H.E. expressed his country’s great satisfaction with Bulgaria’s achievements in the areas of political stability, economics, fiscal discipline and social harmony. The Ambassador also presented his vision about the future role Bulgaria could play: “Our task now is to turn to the future. I envision a new partnership where Bulgaria looks beyond its borders and is a partner in addressing challenges in the region and beyond.”
Then, Mr. Warlick continued with the topic of the Western Balkans. He spoke about Kosovo, which in his words did not become a zone of violent conflict after gaining independence, as many feared. The Ambassador also highlighted the benefits of integrating the countries from the region: “The Balkans are becoming increasingly tied to NATO and EU institutions. The integration of these countries into a zone of prosperity and peace, in which countries are governed by rule of law internally and free from external threats, is a vision being realized“. Within this context, Mr. Warlick believes that Bulgaria is playing a constructive role by maintaining good relations and increasing cooperation with its neighbours. This is definitely an achievement for the Bulgarian diplomacy. He pointed out the example of the Bulgaria-Serbia cooperation: “Serbia is increasingly engaging with NATO partners like Bulgaria and has expressed interest in EU membership“.
With regard to the Black Sea region, H.E. stated that Bulgaria should play the role of an “involved actor”: “As one of the countries with the greatest stake in what happens on the Black Sea, Bulgaria has the ability and responsibility to work closely with like-minded partners, such as Romania, to develop new solutions and avenues of cooperation in areas like defence, energy security, cross-border law enforcement, anti-trafficking, smuggling, and the environment“.
Underlining that through the Black Sea region Bulgaria is able to export stability, security and prosperity to far greater distances, such as Russia, H.E. said “both Bulgaria and the U.S. want cooperative and productive relations with a democratic Russia“. The Ambassador cited the words of the American president Barack Obama who had said he wants a strong, peaceful, and prosperous Russia. Mr. Warlick also quoted the first diplomat of the U.S. Mrs. Hillary Clinton, as saying: “where we have common interests with Russia, we will seek to cooperate. Where we have differences, we will not hesitate to voice them“. With respect to Bulgarian relations with Russia, Mr. Warlick emphasised that his country will not ask or require from Bulgaria to choose between Washington and Moscow. H.E. continued by saying that his government believes Russian interests are best served by having strong, prosperous and democratic states as neighbours, and not by dealing with weak, unstable and poor countries.
Speaking about security threats, Mr. Warlick directed the audience’s attention to the Middle East, and to Afghanistan specifically. He described the situation in the country as the “foremost security challenge facing Europe and the U.S.“, because of the Al-Qaeda safe heavens, which have been the source of terrorist attacks for much of the world. “This is a fight with global implications, and it requires a global response“, stated the Ambassador. In connection to this, H.E. made a reference to the great number of countries, participating in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, and the even larger number of supporting countries. “NATO forces, such as the Bulgarian soldiers bravely serving in Kabul and Kandahar, are critical to the success of this transition“, said the Ambassador, referring to the transition towards democracy and stability in the country. Mr. Warlick added “We must work hard to consolidate our gains and prevent a return to instability“.
H.E. stated that the Bulgarian and U.S. joint effort to fight a common enemy requires adequate military and strategic training before the scene of war is reached. “If we are to work together and fight together successfully, we must first train together, and this important training is conducted here in Bulgaria. Every year U.S. and Bulgarian soldiers work and train together at the joint training facilities of Novo Selo, Bezmer and Graf Ignatiev“.
Mr. Warlick talked about the assistance the U.S. is providing to the Bulgarian Army in the process of its modernisation: “In the last 15 years, the United States, through various security partnership programs, has worked closely with our partners in the Bulgarian military to jointly conduct education and training programs and foster close ties at all levels of military engagement“.
Mr. Warlick continued with the topic of missile defence against threats from Iran and the Middle East: “Last year, President Obama laid out his vision for a “phased, adaptive approach” for missile defence in Europe“. H.E. described the approach as based on an assessment of the missile threat, proven technology, cost effectiveness, and adaptability to an ever changing security environment.
At the end of his speech, H.E. talked about the bilateral partnership between Bulgaria and the U.S. in the development of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency: “A major U.S. investor will soon open the largest wind farm in Southeast Europe. I applaud Bulgaria for welcoming this project, and facilitating its completion“. Mr. Warlick acknowledged the need for reducing energy dependence and diversification of the energy sources that Bulgaria uses: “Just as in the United States, we are taking steps to reduce our dependence on oil from the Middle East, so too Bulgaria must diversify its sources”.
The Ambassador concluded, “We share Bulgaria’s goals of energy diversification and transparency. And we stand ready to share our experience and expertise in any way that will be of help to the Bulgarian people. This, too, is a part of the new partnership“.