Senior Course 134, ‘European Perspectives II’ Field Study: Sofia
Senior Course 134 visited Bulgaria on 13 June 2019, on the second stage of its ‘European Perspectives II’ Field Study. The delegation was welcomed at the Rakovski National Defence College (RNDC) in Sofia by RNDC Commandant MGen Grudi Angelov. This visit was a reflection of the excellent working relations between the RNDC and the NDC.
RNDC Deputy Commandant Colonel Dimitar Tashkov briefly introduced the RNDC’s mission and supporting organizational structure, as well as a brief institutional history. The RNDC was founded in 1912, but was given its present name in 1945, in honour of Georgi Rakovski, a Bulgarian military theoretician and strategist. A particularly significant development in March 2001 was the Bulgarian Parliament’s adoption of the Military Higher Education Act.
BGen Radostin Iliev, Director Defence Policy and Planning Directorate, spoke about the main features and challenges of Bulgarian defence policy. Globalization, the multipolar world, the blurring of boundaries between internal and external security, the NATO defence investment pledge and burden sharing were mentioned as changing security environment drivers on the strategic level. On the regional level, the illegal annexation of Crimea and tensions in the Azov Sea, as well as frozen conflicts in Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, all shape Bulgaria’s defence policy at the operational level.
Colonel Ivan Verbanov, State Expert in the Bulgarian Defence Staff’s Strategic Planning Directorate, described the mission and development priorities of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, which, by the end of 2019, will lead to the Bulgarian Armed Forces Development Plan 2026. The speaker also dwelt briefly on the Bulgarian Integrated Ministry of Defence and the challenges of small nations navigating between NATO initiatives such as Enhanced Forward Presence on the one hand and the EU Strategic Autonomy concept on the other.
In the afternoon panel, Colonel Giorgius Zisekas (GRC A), Deputy Commandant NATO Force Integration Unit Bulgaria, and Colonel Dr Orlin Nikov, Director of the Crisis Management and Disaster Response Centre of Excellence, introduced the structures, missions and tasks of these two international organizations hosted and supported by Bulgaria, with troops contributed by a number of nations. Both organizations are an integral part of the regional defence strategic framework. Talking about them offered Course Members practical insight into how strategic initiatives from recent NATO Summits have materialized both in time and in practice.
The NDC delegation greatly appreciated the warm welcome received at the RNDC, the detailed briefings and the candid answers during the Q&A sessions.