a Small but Powerful UN Voice
With a war to
disarm Iraq on hold for UN Security Council votes, countries that
may not have been seen as important before now take center stage
in a powerful tug-of-war for votes. Bulgaria, once an ally of the
U.S.’s Cold War enemy, is now a friend who must make an important
decision to forcefully defuse the Weapons of Mass Destruction threat
posed by Iraq and attached terrorists while being tugged by nations
arguing the wait and see approach.
President George W. Bush welcomes Bulgarian Prime Minister
Simeon Saxe-Coburg (L) to the Oval Office February 25,
2003. Bush on Tuesday emphasized his intention to bypass
the United Nations and attack Iraq if necessary, saying
approval of a new U.N. resolution was not essential and
only Iraqi disarmament could avert war. Bulgaria is considered
one of the three sure votes the United States has on the
Security Council in addition to its own. Saxe-Coburg said
afterward he still hoped the issue could be settled within
the United Nations.
Draper / The White House / Handout / Reuters
been very good friends with Bulgaria since the Russian army saved
the country from the Turks during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.
And at one point during the Cold War, Bulgaria proposed to joined
the Soviet Union. However, with the world changed years later,
Bulgaria regards both Russia and the U.S. as friends, and it has
shown this over the past few days.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, who was crowned
in Bulgaria as King Simeon II in his childhood and is the brother
of Princess Maria Louisa, met with President George W. Bush at
the White House. Bulgaria is well known for its leadership in
defying Hitler in order to protect its Jewish citizens. With the
focus on world security again, Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg Gotha
is faced with a somewhat similar dilemma that his father King
Boris III faced: hope that the problem will just go away or to
take a stand. (Read how King
Boris III paid with his life after standing against Hitler).
The two leaders
of this generation spoke at length on the issue and PM Saxe-Coburg
Gotha has gone home to consider his position that is believed
to lean strongly in favor of the new U.S.-U.K.-Spain UN draft
resolution. Already, Bulgaria has granted U.S. requests for use
of its airspace and the stationing of refueling aircraft in the
event of an attack on Iraq.
A week after
meeting with President Bush, Russia’s President Putin arrived
in Bulgaria. Along with Putin came Simeon’s second cousin,
Prince Dimitri Romanoff, heir of Russia’s last royal family (Their
grandmothers were sisters.). During his time with Saxe-Coburg
Gotha on Sunday, Putin presented a gift from Russia’s Foreign
Ministry archives; documents that refer to Simeon’s family
history. It has been reported by the Bulgarian press that the
gift was of substantial value to the Prime Minister.
During a news
conference this week Putin restated Russia’s opposition
to military action against Iraq. “We in Russia are convinced
that the Iraq crisis can and must be resolved through peaceful
means," Putin stated. "It must be said here that the
Russian and Bulgarian positions on Iraq do not fully coincide."
apparent disagreement between the two leaders, trade between both
their countries has been and still is very important. In 2002
the mutual Russian-Bulgarian trade turnover was $1.4 billion.
And Baghdad owes the nation of Bulgaria over $1 billion dollars.