NOVO SELO TRAINING AREA, Bulgaria – Even before Russia invaded Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula last year, the United States recognized the value of putting down roots in eastern Europe.
After signing a defense agreement with Bulgaria in 2006, the U.S. government began a $60 million construction project at this training base, building nearly two dozen barracks buildings — along with a chapel, post office, gymnasium and small base exchange — and new roads, parking areas and sidewalks.
Today, a stay at Novo Selo — considered one of Europe’s premier training areas — is like bunking on an American base in the middle of nowhere. Given the current political unrest in eastern Europe, U.S. military members can expect to become more comfortable with deployments to a country many probably couldn’t find on a map.
Nestled between mountains and picturesque fields of sunflowers and grapevines, the training area in this former Warsaw Pact country is expected to host more U.S. and NATO troops in the coming year as the United States seeks to increase military cooperation with its Bulgarian partners, strengthen security in the region and reassure eastern European allies nervous that Russia might be eyeing their territory.
“There’s going to be a lot more soldiers planned for next year than this year,” said Bulgarian Army Lt. Col. Petar Zelev, commander of Novo Selo Training Area.