U.S. Stryker Infantry Fighting Vehicles Deploy to Bolster Bulgaria
Sending armed Strykers, known for their deployability and cross-terrain mobility, sends a clear message to Russia that NATO is fully committed to Bulgaria’s defense.
The Department of Defense is sending a company of Stryker armored, infantry fighting vehicles to Bulgaria, a NATO ally, to strengthen deterrence against a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.
"These troops will be departing Germany in coming days, and they will help ensure our readiness and interoperability with Bulgaria as our NATO ally," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told an audience in Brussels, Belgium at NATO headquarters.
Reinforcing Bulgaria is significant for a number of reasons. Bulgaria is south of Ukraine and not likely to be in any invasion path chosen by Russia. However, Austin remarked that, in addition to adding large numbers of Russian ground forces now assembled in Ukraine, Russia is also increasing its military presence in the Black Sea. As a NATO ally with Black Sea coastline, Bulgaria could be vulnerable to Russian missile or warship attacks from the ocean. Sending armed Strykers, known for their deployability and cross-terrain mobility, sends a clear message to Russia that NATO is fully committed to Bulgaria’s defense.
In fact, Austin was clear to emphasize that NATO is unified and prepared to uphold Article 5 of its charter—ensuring collective defense in the event of an attack on any member.
The Strykers’ deployment to Bulgaria carries another message related to mobility and deployability. In 2015, the U.S. Army and its European allies held the Dragoon Ride, an exercise that included an extensive convoy traveling across the European continent to, among other things, conduct joint operations with NATO’s Eastern European allied forces such as the Czech Republic. The convoy, which included Strykers, tactical trucks, and other armored vehicles, traveled across 1,800 km, spanning from Estonia in Eastern Europe to Germany. The convoy’s intent, U.S. Army officials told Warrior Maven at the time, was to demonstrate an ability to mobilize and deploy U.S. and allied forces quickly and efficiently throughout the European continent. During the Dragoon Ride, soldiers with the Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment traveled from the Baltic states through Poland and the Czech Republic into Germany, as various allies joined along the way.
Therefore, there is a manner of strategic continuity between 2015’s exercise and today’s deployments. If needed, U.S. Army Strykers and other NATO mechanized land warfare assets could deploy from Bulgaria northward to reinforce Ukraine from its southern border. Bulgaria borders Romania and could potentially access southeastern Ukraine through Moldava or reach southwestern Ukraine through Romania. Essentially, should there be a need to protect Romania or reinforce Ukraine’s southern border, Strykers based in Bulgaria could be uniquely impactful. However, for now, President Joe Biden has firmly ruled out deploying U.S. troops to defend Ukraine.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.