Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Displeased as Bulgarians Grow Closer to U.S. Military

Russia is taking a skeptical view of increased military cooperation between the United States and Bulgaria, once Moscow's most loyal ally in Eastern Europe.

Last week, Washington and Sofia agreed to step up military ties and President Petar Stoyanov said Bulgaria might permit U.S. ships based in Turkey to use its bases on the Black Sea coast. But the two sides dismissed Bulgarian media speculation that there were plans to open U.S. bases in the Balkan state.

"The possible opening of U.S. bases on Bulgarian soil would not help strengthen security and stability in Europe, especially in its southeastern part," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told a news briefing Thursday. "The appearance of new military bases in this region would have a negative impact on bilateral relations."

Bulgaria is keen to join NATO and takes part in the alliance's Partnership for Peace program. It backed NATO's bombing campaign against neighboring Yugoslavia, despite opposition from many Bulgarians who, like Serbs, are mostly Orthodox Christian Slavs.

Russia, by contrast, fiercely criticized the NATO airstrikes and suspended cooperation with the Western alliance in protest.

Moscow also resents NATO's eastward expansion into its former zone of influence. It has been similarly critical of increased contact between NATO and former Soviet republics like Georgia, on the opposite side of the Black Sea from Bulgaria.