According to Raichev, Bulgaria has practically no armed forces of its own, so it needs to rely on the United States for its national security.
“Generally, they forced us to do it. <...> Bulgaria has no army, literally. Bulgaria does not have its own forces to defend itself with. We are protected by the United States of America. That is a fact. Therefore, their say is the word”, the political analyst said on the national television channel bTV, adding that the United States “is losing its prestige in this whole story”.
Raichev also expressed the opinion that at the moment everyone – including the defence minister and prime minister, who are in favour of purchasing the F-16s, and the president of the country, who criticises the terms of the deal – are trying to preserve their dignity, since Bulgaria, in any case, will have to sign contracts for the purchase of the aircraft, armaments, and equipment.
Antoaneta Hristova, a professor of political psychology who disagrees with Raichev, said that Bulgaria is making its choice should first of all be guided by its membership in NATO and not by the jet fighters’ price.
“The first thing is the value priority, and the second one is the price-quality ratio”, Hristova said.
The professor also believes that Bulgaria did not choose the Swedish Gripen because Sweden is not a member of NATO and is under the influence of Russia.
“And let's not forget why Sweden is not in NATO. Because there is influence from Russia, and the reason is that it (Sweden) must maintain a balance”, Hristova concluded.
Earlier, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev vetoed a draft for the ratification of the F-16 deal. The second vote in the National Assembly (parliament) will be held on Friday. However, some members in the governing party Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria believe that it will be possible to easily overcome the presidential veto.
The price for eight fighters is almost $1.26 billion. The first six aircraft will be delivered by 2023, and two more in the first three months of 2024.
In Bulgaria, there are four bases for the joint use of NATO countries: the Bezmer and Graf Ignatievo Air Bases, as well as the Novo Selo Training Area and the military depot in Aytos. According to former US Ambassador to Bulgaria Marcie Ries, the United States has invested over $60 million in infrastructure and renovation for these facilities as part of a defence cooperation agreement between the countries.
Opponents of the F-16 deal – the Volya and Attack parties – have often stated that the United States, which is using these bases for free, could have donated jet fighters to Bulgaria.