Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Bulgarian Minister of Defense Krasimir Karakachanov signed a 10-year road map charting defense cooperation between the two countries over the next decade.
Bulgaria and the United States are NATO allies, and Esper praised the Balkan nation for dedicating 3 percent of gross domestic product toward defense in fiscal 2019. The road map looks for ways for the two countries to fix gaps in military capabilities and to improve interoperability, Esper said.
It also establishes a framework for the continuous development of Bulgaria's military readiness and capabilities for the next decade through sustained cooperation between the two nations.
"This road map will give us a chance to not only intensify our bilateral relations, but to be individually beneficial to each other's national defense," Karakachanov said through an interpreter. "Also, to be beneficial to NATO … to be able to counter the malign intentions of our adversaries."
Bulgaria is a front-line NATO state. Esper said the nation plays a critical role in protecting NATO's eastern flank.
"We, of course, share many security interests, particularly issues such as Black Sea security, defense modernization and security cooperation," Esper said.
Esper said he wants more NATO allies to reach at least the 2 percent goal of GDP committed to defense. "I encourage you and our other alliance members to pay to push for 2 percent of the GDP spending target and to make the needed investments to enhance your capabilities and capacity," he said. "Because you know, I believe that 2 percent should be a floor, not a ceiling."