378. Telegram From the Embassy in Bulgaria to the Department of State1



  • Bulgarians To Cease Arms Shipments to Nicaragua.


  • Sofia 4738.2
Summary: Foreign Minister Mladenov informed me Dec 20 that Bulgaria will stop all arms shipments to Nicaragua, including L–39 jet trainers. GOB wishes to receive an official USG reaction. End summary.
Mladenov, who had been with Head of State Todor Zhivkov for two days in Bucharest until an hour before our meeting, called me in December 20 and said that he had passed the information from our demarche Dec 17 (reftel) to “the highest level,” and that a political decision had been made not to deliver “destabilizing weapons,” i.e., L–39 jet trainers to Nicaragua, as well as to cease delivering arms of any kind to that country. He added that any ships in Bulgarian harbors with arms aboard for Nicaragua would be unloaded.
The Foreign Minister concluded that the GOB expects this exchange on arms to be kept confidential, and that the GOB would like a reaction from the U.S. I thanked the Foreign Minister for this information and said I was sure the USG would be pleased with the GOB position. I promised to obtain further reaction or comment from Washington.
In same meeting Mladenov told me GOB had approved “at highest level” DEA meeting with Interior Ministry officials (septel).3
Comment: There are several points that can be made about this rather remarkable GOB “decision”:
I believe it is unlikely that we would be told officially that arms shipments would cease if GOB planned to continue to ship arms. GOB certainly knows that we have the means to check up on them.
Clearly only Zhivkov could have made such a “decision.” It is equally clear that the impetus for it would have had to come from the USSR or, at a minimum, that Soviet approval would have had to be obtained.
It is, of course, quite possible that the Bulgarian position could be part of a previous Soviet decision to restructure the provision of military assistance to Nicaragua. We cannot determine the full significance of the GOB statement as we do not know the current extent of Bulgarian arms shipments to Nicaragua, nor whether some realignment of arms shipments to that country has already been taking place. Mladenov’s calm reaction when I raised this issue with him Dec 17, and the short time he took to respond, seem to bolster this line of analysis.
Further, the GOB has been pursuing a campaign to demonstrate they want to improve relations with the U.S. (inter alia greater accessibility to GOB officials, extraordinary treatment of Codel Edwards,4 agreement to DEA-Interior Ministry contacts), or at least to try to put the onus on us for non-improvement. With the focus on them for narcotics and arms trafficking, and the Antonov trial, pulling them out of the Nicaragua arms pipeline may be designed to moderate their image as the Soviet frontman. The Soviets certainly have means other than via Bulgaria for getting military equipment to Nicaragua and may have agreed to such a realignment for the sake of their closest ally. Our demarche and their response may have been fortuitous.
We would appreciate receiving from the Department the following:
Any further thoughts on the significance of the GOB’s response or the reasons for it.
Information on current status of GOB arms shipments to Nicaragua.
Points for an official USG reaction to the GOB response as requested by Mladenov.
Please repeat as appropriate to Moscow, Prague and Managua.
  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Cable File, Europe (State) NODIS IN (12/01/1984–03/02/1985). Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. Telegram 4738 from Sofia, December 18, reported the U.S. démarche to Bulgaria regarding its arms shipment to Nicaragua. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D840014–0588)
  3. Telegram 4792 from Sofia, sent December 21, reported on the Bulgarians’ agreement to meet with the DEA. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D840817–0579)
  4. A Congressional delegation led by Representative Don Edwards (D–CA) visited Bulgaria December 12–15.