by Victor Kotsev
Will Bulgaria be the next testing ground in the escalating confrontation between Putin’s Russia and the West—and why should you care?
The answer may have something to do with gas.
Follow the Pipelines
“If the Russians get their way in Ukraine, we will be the next country they will turn their attention to,” said Evgeniy Dainov, a political science and sociology professor at New Bulgarian University in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital.
He is a staunch critic of the Kremlin who nevertheless refuses to support a Western initiative to wean Bulgaria off Russian energy by letting big American companies such as Chevron “frack” in its most fertile land.
Just like Crimea and the Donbass region of Ukraine, where clashes are currently taking place, Bulgaria has considerable shale gas reserves—and these reserves are near the heart of the East-West dispute.
A Russian Trojan Horse?
Bulgaria was once the Soviet Union’s most loyal ally—now it’s a member of the European Union and NATO but it continues to have close economic and cultural ties with Russia. So much so, in fact, that some Europeans worry that having Bulgaria in their midst will prove to be a "Trojan horse" from Russia.
The Bulgarians—along with the rest of Europe, and the West—are nervous about what they view as Russia’s intensifying expansionism: Kremlin influence inevitably follows direct investments and business deals with Russian entities. These can quickly morph into channels of political pressure—as in the 2009 Russia-Ukraine gas dispute, when the Russians cut off the gas to 16 European Union countries.
Those Who Can Be Intimidated
A senior fellow and head of the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Bulgarian office, Dimitar Bechev explained to WhoWhatWhy his view on how Russia wields its power: “The Russian regime has a very cynical attitude and divides people into two categories: those who can be intimidated and those who can be bought.”
Those who can be intimidated would include the Bulgarians, for many reasons. One reason: they depend on Russia for 90 percent of their natural gas, and they saw what happened during the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute).
Those Who Can Be Bought
There seems to be no limit to those who can be bought. Continue reading this story at WhoWhatWhy.org