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Alternatives & Analyses: Borisov’s casino politics

The news that the Bulgarian Government has mandated the Bulgarian Energy Holding to start negotiations with unidentified US companies a new reactor 7 at the Kozloduy NPP, seems an episode in Borisov’s casino policy. The Bulgarian PM is desperately trying to dodge US sanctions because of TurkStream. His window of opportunity expires by the end of the year.

There is no ground for optimism on 1, Dondoukov Street, as there is a bipartisan consensus on the United States issue. Those who thought that Trump was a Russian agent and will cover TurkStream should take a serious look back at the results of his policy towards Russia in the energy field – total pressure and Russia’s retreat both in terms of energy proceeds in the budget and the potential to convert energy dependencies into foreign policy levers. President Obama did not promote shale gas; Trump turned it into a weapon that changed the world’s gas market and blocked the Kremlin’s ability to transform oil and gas into a source of unlimited funding for aggressions abroad.

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Attempts to mediate through the Saudi Arkad Company also failed.

Like a desperate casino player about to lose everything, the Bulgarian prime minister is frantically trying to get credits of time and trust from wherever he can, but mostly from Washington. His lobbying potential, in the context of his apparent geopolitical siding with the Kremlin, thus securing its uninterrupted gas monopoly in Bulgaria and the region, is slim to non-existent.

Borissov badly needs American companies to lobby on his behalf in Washington. The Bulgarian PM’s attempt to engage with the US Solar Turbines, the gas turbines suppliers for the compressor stations at the “Bulgarian” TurkStream, yielded mixed results. In the proverbial Bulgarian wisdom – ‘they took the money and promised to come back.’

Then he tried to order eight new F-16s – the jets Karakachanov offered to buy in Washington. Alas, the defense minister hit a wall. His hosts signed cooperation programs, MoUs, but the US Department of Defense did not provide with an indulgence for the TurkStream.

Borissov did not receive the top US energy diplomat Francis Fannon during the latter’s recent visit to Sofia, fearing that his guest would share with the Bulgarian public in the prime minister’s presence that the White House considers the name game with TurkStream pointless.

On his foreign consultants’ advice, the Bulgarian prime minister’s last escape maneuver was to engage lobbyists in Washington by offering lucrative contracts to American companies. Such is the case with the American nuclear companies, which were supposedly ‘locked in’ with interest to build the seventh unit at Kozloduy NPP. In terms of despair levels, this move by the Bulgarian PM probably breaks all records, as the credibility of his statements bumps into the rudimentary fact that Bulgaria is still wrestling to find a sensible use for its two Russian reactors. Against such odds, the pretense of looking for a third reactor might be interpreted as a sign of mental derailment.

Borissov’s ‘magic’ worked almost flawlessly, masking his affiliation with the Kremlin, while he enjoyed the essential trust of his NATO allies respecting the red lines of collaboration with Putin.

Instead, he promised everything to everyone, at any rate, more than he could deliver.

The result was losses on all fronts with Washington, Moscow, and Berlin turning their backs on him.

Ilian Vassilev

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