For the next six months, two men who might have symbolised Bulgaria’s old guard instead will stand front and centre in debates over Europe’s future. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is a one-time bodyguard to Bulgaria’s last reigning monarch; President Rumen Radev is a former MiG-29 jet pilot. The rivals are locked in political battle over judicial independence and global outlook in one of Europe’s newest member states.

At any other time, their struggles might have escaped notice on the European Union’s periphery. Now that Bulgaria holds the EU presidency, however, could the repercussions be felt in Brussels and Washington?

Observers have good reason to worry. Despite Bulgaria’s commitment to regional unity, its outsized dependence on Russian gas alarms many in Brussels and Washington. Radev maintains close ties to Russian elites and criticises the West’s standpoint on Ukraine’s crisis. Given his support for lifting sanctions on Moscow, many tend to perceive Bulgaria as a Trojan horse state in the EU and NATO. Add to the mix Bulgaria’s sometimes-hostile attitude towards Western investors, and the recipe for disaster is complete.

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