Borissov described himself as "Bulgaria's biggest asset"
"We must continue to walk a fine line between being used by Borisov's publicity machine and alienating an exceptionally popular and seemingly pro-American politician who may emerge as Bulgaria's next leader. In other words, we should continue to push him in the right direction, but never forget who we're dealing with."
This is the conclusion of a diplomatic report dedicated to now Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, sent by former US Ambassador to Sofia, Jonh Beyrle on May 9, 2006. The report’s confidentiality level is listed as SECRET/NOT FOR FOREIGNERS, only one level below the highest TOP SECRET – cables classified as TOP SECRET are not available to Wikileaks.
The reasons for classifying the report are coded as 1.5 (b,d), meaning confidential sources have been used in its preparation.
The cable has another characteristic – from a total of 978 reports sent from Sofia, there are just a few that have been checked and approved simultaneously by the Embassy’s political, military and security advisors, not just Ambassador Beyrle.
This is how Beyrle titled the section focusing on Boyko Borisov’s criminal past. Incidentally, the paragraph has the "lucky" number 13, while in the brackets, after 13, the level of confidentiality is purposely listed as SECRET/NOFOR, which corresponds to the highest level of classified information for this cable.
"13. (S/NF) Accusations in years past have linked Borisov to oil-siphoning scandals, illegal deals involving LUKoil and major traffic in methamphetamines. Information from SIMO tends to substantiate these allegations. Borisov is alleged to have used his former position as head of Bulgarian law enforcement to arrange cover for criminal deals, and his common-law wife, Tsvetelina Borislavova, manages a large Bulgarian bank that has been accused of laundering money for organized criminal groups, as well as for Borisov's own illegal transactions. Borisov is said to have close social and business ties to influential Mafia figures, including Mladen Mihalev (AKA "Madzho"), and is a former business partner of OC figure Roumen Nikolov (AKA "the Pasha")."
In their desire to downplay the American diplomats’ reports, those affected point out these are simply rumors, pedantically registered by diligent clerks at the Embassy. But in this case, we have something far more serious: the collective work of nearly the entire diplomatic team, citing the mysterious SIMO, confirming information about Borisov’s participation in serious criminal activities.
A check of the Wikileaks site where about 13000 cables have been published so far, found only 4 mention of SIMO. According to the context, SIMO appears to be an agency related to the security and information domains, participating in the Legal Enforcement Commettee of the Ambassador, together with other known US agencies such as DEA.
The second paragraph in the "Dirt" section focuses on ties between Borisov and Valentin Zlatev, CEO of Lukoil, Bulgaria.
"14. (S/NF) Borisov has close financial and political ties to LUKoil Bulgaria Director Valentin Zlatev, a vastly influential kingmaker and behind-the-scenes power broker. Borisov's loyalty (and vulnerability) to Zlatev play a major role in his political decision making. The Mayor has engaged LUKoil in a number of public-private partnerships since taking office: LUKoil has agreed to donate asphalt for the repair of city streets, take on the upkeep of a Soviet Army monument, and finance construction of low-income housing. In a reciprocal gesture, Borisov has advocated using municipal land to develop new LUKoil stations. Though this may seem a significant quid-pro-quo, Borisov's public agreements with LUKoil are only side deals in his much deeper and broader business relationship with Zlatev, which has been reported in other channels."
Valentin Zlatev is also mentioned in the notorious cable, dedicated to organized crime in Bulgaria, sent by former US Ambassador, James Pardew: "LUKOIL’s representative in Bulgaria is VALENTIN ZLATEV... Lukoil's Bulgarian operations, through Zlatev, are suspected of strong ties to Russian intelligence and organized crime."
The cable further reveals that Borisov makes discrete visits to the Russian Embassy, all while seeking recognition and public support from the US for his political ambitions.
"16 (S/NF) Borisov's ego may provide our greatest leverage over him -- he craves international attention and particularly covets U.S. approval," the analyses from the report points out. The informal leader of GERB had been directly and openly bargaining with the Americans for their political support in the general elections as pay back for his pro-American positions. "I will bring down the government after the basing agreement is completed", was the directly proposed barter, which had impressed the Americans.
The cable notes as example of controversy the fact that Borisov, on one hand side, had been promising the US full support for military bases and Bulgaria’s participation in international military missions, and on the other had dared to demagogically criticize in public the pro-American policies of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, in the following way: "On Iraq (the government) said that they would withdraw our troops immediately. They didn't withdraw them; they sent another brigade there. They gave the Americans bases without getting anything in return."
Also of interest is the paragraph where Beyrle reports how after a written warning from the American side, Borisov immediately halted his anti-American rhetoric. To pretend he was loyal, he had promised to destroy the nationalist Ataka party. Nevertheless, the new Bulgarian political star remains a « street smart », « politically naïve » individual « His high energy level and short attention span sometimes lead him to pace like a caged tiger. ». The Ambassador does not spare Borisov the assessment of the latter’s extreme sensitivity and intolerance to any type of private or public criticism.
One of the top egocentric weaknesses of the Prime Minister is self-promotion. The analyses in the cable even hints for a negative assessment: "Borisov promoted himself shamelessly as Chief Secretary, skillfully combining influential connections with media owners and Hollywood-perfect press instincts to ensure the favorable coverage that his image is built on". The cable notes the PM personally created a sound PR machine to polish his public image. Bulgarian journalists, however, in private conversations with Embassy employees, had not spared the truth of being subject to the “carrot and stick” method. Borisov paid cash to be glorified by the media or directly threatened the disobedient.
As a whole, Borisov is assessed as the political leader, who may be capable of making good on his threat to bring down the ruling Three-Way Coalition. But, according to the same report, he remains "an unpredictable individual with unbridled political ambition."
There is no doubt the Americans followed Beyrle’s advice to not forget who they are dealing with. And certainly, Borisov wishes that some details from his biography could remain buried in the diplomatic files forever.
Batman on a leash?
In one of the first cables, published by Wikileaks, Russian PM Putin was compared to Batman and President Medvedev to Robin.
Boyko Borissov is also known by the nickname Batman, as the Americans reported. What is less known to Western media is his admiration for Putin, Hitler, Stalin and Mao, admiration he announced himself in a 2008 interview for the Bulgarian weekly Max
The cable makes it clear that the Bulgarian Prime Minister is not as independent as the dictators he admires. He is in fact double-dependent.
On one hand side, the US obviously dispose with compromising information about his past criminal activity and skillfully exploit the ego of the former firefighter. It looks like the Americans applied the good old principle : "they are all bastards, but he is our bastard", so they "push" Borissov, expecting him to remain loyal.
On the other hand side, he is kept on a leash by "Regent" Zlatev, representative of Russian puppeteers, who whisper threats in Borisov’s ear. He admitted before the Americans the Russian threat of turning off the gas tap, but was it the only one? Or is there something personal? Because if Zlatev has "strong ties to Russian intelligence and organized crime", as reported in another cable from Sofia, one can deduct that what SIMO knows about Borisov was planned and directed to some extend by the Russian secret services.
The conflict between Borisov’s dependencies is well on its way to be resolved in the following months. Borisov demonstrated a dramatic U-turn in his attitude towards Russian energy projects in Bulgaria, and particularly the “Belene” NPP project where, surprisingly, Valentin Zlatev became involved as a consultant from the Russian side. The positions of pro-American Ministers in the Borisov's cabinet such as Minister of Economics Traycho Traikov and Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov appear weakened lately, but Americans are yet to have the final say.