The Soviet Union
In the post-Zhivkov era, the most controversial foreign policy problem was defining Bulgaria's new relationship with its traditional protector and best trading partner, the Soviet Union. Although Zhivkov's relations with Gorbachev had not been as warm as those with earlier Soviet leaders, Bulgaria remained strongly dependent on the Soviet Union economically even in the years immediately following Zhivkov's ouster (permission for which Bulgarian Politburo members duly sought and received from Moscow). In mid-1992 the 1967 Treaty for Cooperation, Security, and Friendship with the Soviet Union was to expire.
Because the treaty called for notice of abrogation to be given a year in advance, by mid-1991 Bulgarian national opinion was divided over what terms should be included in the National Assembly's draft of a new treaty. Led by the BSP, one body of Bulgarian opinion advocated essentially renewing the existing treaty, giving the Soviet Union top priority in the new foreign policy to ensure continued supply of fuels and other vital materials. A second body of opinion, led by the UDF and Podkrepa, conceded the pragmatic necessity of continued economic relations but urged that a new treaty eliminate all subordination of Bulgarian to Soviet interests and provide complete flexibility for Bulgaria to establish commercial and diplomatic ties with the West. Amid heated public debate, the Popov government reached agreement with the Soviet Union on a short-term abrogation followed by accelerated joint development of a new treaty reflecting the changed positions of both sides. The Bulgarian National Assembly was expected to pass a bill to that effect in August 1991.
Because the two countries had no disputed territory and were on roughly parallel paths of political reform in 1991, major issues between them were mostly economic. The primary Bulgarian concern was to protect its newborn geopolitical independence from any recurrence of the Warsaw Pact mentality in Moscow. Other critical goals in 1991 were stabilizing the unpredictable supply of Soviet oil, protecting large numbers of Bulgarian guest workers threatened with layoff in the Komi Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Komi ASSR), and reestablishing Soviet markets for Bulgarian goods that had shrunk drastically in 1990. A new bilateral defense agreement also was a priority in the wake of Warsaw Pact disestablishment. In July 1991, Bulgaria set a precedent by signing a trade agreement with the Byelorussian Republic, the first intergovernmental pact made directly with one of the Soviet republics.
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