Bulgaria could deliver Soviet-era tanks and APCs to Ukraine in exchange for modern replacements

So far, as Wilhelmine Preussen recalls in Politico, Bulgaria has been one of the few EU countries to refuse weapon deliveries to Ukraine. But the country’s parliament voted on November 3, instructing the government to put forward a plan within the next month to completely change that attitude.
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Bulgarian army T-72 Main Battle Tanks (Picture source: Bulgarian MoD)

Some 175 Bulgarian lawmakers voted in favor of a six-point plan to provide military aid to Ukraine, detailing which weapons could be delivered to Kyiv, Wilhelmine Preussen reports. Another 49 voted against the motion. The newly adopted motion asks the Cabinet to launch talks with NATO allies to replace or boost defense capabilities in exchange for getting rid of its Soviet-era military equipment.

A ‘’useful’’ way to implement such a move was adopted by MPs from different parties who argued that providing military assistance to Ukraine could be an opportunity for Bulgaria to modernize its weapons stock. If doing so, like the Czechs, the Polish and the Slovenians who offered their Soviet-era tanks and APCs to Ukraine, the Bulgarians might follow the same conduct by proposing similar vehicles provided they receive appropriate replacements. At its inventory, the Bulgarian army has got 90 T-72M1/M2+ MBTs, 160 IFVs (90 BMP-1s and 70 BMP-2s), and 120 APCs (100 MT-LBs and 20 BTR-60s). At a meeting on February 16, Bulgaria’s government adopted an updated version of the project to modernize the country’s T-72 tanks. In December 2020, under a previous government, Bulgaria’s Defence Ministry signed a 78.7 million leva (about 40.2 million euros) two-year contract with Bulgarian firm Terem for the modernization of 44 of the army’s T-72 main battle tanks.

It would in any case be unclear what military aid could be sent to Ukraine and how soon this could happen. Bulgaria has so far indirectly supplied at least €1 billion in weapons and ammunition to Ukraine via other countries buying its arms and sending them on, according to estimates, a major boon for the Bulgarian defense industry.

However, Wilhelmine Preussen reports, President Rumen Radev and Minister of Defense Dimitar Stoyanov spoke out against the idea, saying the Bulgarian army cannot afford such weapon deliveries and arguing that partners like the United States will not provide replacement weapons as a “gift.”