Balkans: Bulgarian Bases for American Troops

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April 22, 2006: The US always tries to balance its relations with Greece and Turkey. Though members of NATO, old antagonisms die hard. In the late 1990s Greece and Turkey almost went to war over islets in the Aegean Sea. The US acted as a political "buffer" between the two nations. Since then relations between Greece and Turkey have improved. Greece responded with aid and recovery assistance when an earthquake struck Turkey in August 1999. In October 1999 an earthquake hit Athens and Turkey returned the favor. This "earthquake diplomacy" began a slow process of rapprochement. Still, Turkey says Greece is blocking Turkey's entry into the European Union. Cyprus --still divided into Greek and Turk areas-- is another problem. Greek left-wing parties tend to oppose an efforts by the United States to patch up relations between the two countries.

April 20, 2006: Bulgaria's government approved a military co-operation deal with the U.S. that will permit the training of "foreign troops" in Bulgaria. "Foreign troops" means U.S. troops. Bulgaria has renovated several bases and expects that up to 2500 U.S. troops will begin using those bases sometime in 2007. The U.S. troops will "rotate" through Bulgaria every six months. The Bulgarian government believes that the new deal will help speed up Bulgaria's military modernization program. The opportunity to train with U.S. troops is regarded as a major plus. The military cooperation agreement is for ten years, though the U.S. and Bulgaria can terminate the agreement with a year's notice. Bulgaria also said that the Besmer and Graf Ignatievo airbases will be renovated and the U.S. will pay for the renovation. Also on April 20, both the U.S. and Poland said that they support Bulgaria's bid to join the European Union. Bulgaria wants to join the E.U. in 2007.

April 19, 2006: The UN said that no matter how Kosovo's status is resolved (either independence or maintaining some political relationship with Serbia), the UN may need to keep police and peacekeepers in northern Kosovo indefinitely. Northern Kosovo has many Kosovar Serb towns and villages. These Kosovar Serb areas are vulnerable to attack by ethnic Albanian militias. The UN statement acknowledges that fact. The statement is also intended to reassure Serbia and Kosovar Serbs that they will be protected. There will be no "ethnic cleansing" of Kosovar Serb areas.

 

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