“Bulgaria is a strategic partner and ally of the United States,” said the new US ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria, Kenneth Merten, during his Senate hearing.
“Bulgaria is a strategic partner and ally of the United States. Since joining NATO in 2004, Bulgaria has consistently demonstrated its commitment to the Alliance. It has provided forces and suffered casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Merten said.
He added that he will continue to support Bulgaria’s efforts to combat Russian harmful influence.
In this context, he stated that due to Russia’s unprovoked war, coordination with Bulgaria is even more imperative.
“Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine makes our continued close coordination with Bulgaria all the more imperative, especially given the country’s position along the Eastern flank of Europe. Bulgaria hosts a multinational NATO battle group that includes American troops. It has registered more than 145,000 refugees from Ukraine for temporary protection, fully supported sanctions against Russia, and in November the Bulgarian parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of military aid to Ukraine.”
Merten welcomed Bulgaria’s acquisition of the second tranche of F-16s and noted that this was a significant step towards Bulgaria meeting the necessary defense spending.
An equally important task for Kenneth Merten will be the expansion and diversification of economic ties with the host country.
“There is enormous potential to intensify our relationship and to expand US commercial activity in key areas such as technology and innovation, agriculture, education and entrepreneurship, infrastructure and especially energy,” he said, noting Sofia’s positive steps towards energy diversification. “The completion of the Greece-Bulgaria interconnector, which facilitates the import of natural gas from Azerbaijan, was a major achievement in this regard. More remains to be done, starting with the provision to the supply of nuclear fuel that does not depend on Russian raw materials.”
During the hearing, Kenneth Merten did not fail to present part of his biography and experience, which will help him in his new venture in Sofia. He said he was honored to be a candidate for the post and expressed gratitude to his family, who are also involved in the diplomatic service.
Merten served as ambassador to Haiti during “the worst urban natural disaster in modern history, a cholera epidemic and a hurricane.” During that period, he has increased the size of the embassy by 20%, coordinated .2 billion in reconstruction and a 22,000-strong military mission and additional humanitarian missions.
He then served as ambassador to Croatia in the final stages before the country’s EU membership. Outstanding achievements for him during this period were the return of pre-war Jewish property to Croatian Jews and laying “the foundations for Croatia to build an LNG terminal, making Croatia more energy independent, which is especially important these days.”
“This experience will help me understand US priorities in Bulgaria,” concluded Ambassador Kenneth Merten.