US Army Lt. Col. Steven Templeton of the 4th Infantry Division, fires a machine gun
© Flickr/US Army/Spc. Deomontez Duncan
US Army Lt. Col. Steven Templeton of the 4th Infantry Division, fires a machine gun at Novo Selo Training Range, Bulgaria, December 14, 2018.
The government in Sofia is calling for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, strengthening its own military

Bulgaria is a "loyal ally in NATO" and the alliance's unity is the best response to the current crisis over Ukraine, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on Wednesday, amid conflicting reports on Sofia's participation in the US military buildup in Eastern Europe.

Petkov's government voted on Wednesday to follow the "Bulgarian strategy" of reducing tensions between NATO and Russia, including "absolutely all options for resolving this dispute by diplomatic means," according to the state news agency BTA.

The strategy will be based on rebuilding the Bulgarian military, Petkov said. Defense Minister Stefan Yanev explained that the "top priority" will be investing in building a battalion combat team, a unit of around 1,000 soldiers.

Yanev would not comment on reports by Bulgarian National Radio that Sofia would not accept the deployment of 1,000 US soldiers on its soil, but would be fine with French troops instead. This was reported early on Wednesday by BNR correspondent in Brussels, Angelina Piskova, who quoted a "well-informed diplomatic source."

The minister said such a thing has not been discussed on the political level, according to BNR.

Local media reported that Yanev also told lawmakers that Bulgarian soldiers won't fight in Ukraine without parliamentary approval, which he "does not see coming."

Earlier on Wednesday, CNN reported that Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania were in discussions with the US to accept 1,000 American troops each, as part of Washington's effort to "reassure" NATO members in Eastern Europe and "deter" the alleged Russian invasion of Ukraine. The US intelligence has heralded such an invasion since late October, though Moscow dismissed it as "fake news."

Speaking before the parliamentary defense committee on Tuesday, Yanev said that neither Russia nor anyone else is preparing to invade Bulgaria, and urged the lawmakers to "reduce tensions, stop reading the foreign press, and stop speculating."