Village on Ukraine's doorstep set to become NATO's biggest European air base as Putin vows to go 'until the end' in the war

Village on Ukraine's doorstep set to become NATO's biggest European air base as Putin vows to go 'until the end' in the war
  • Romania's Mihail Kogălniceanu air base is set to become NATO's largest base in Europe.

  • A major expansion is expected to allow the base to support 10,000 NATO personnel and their families.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin recently vowed to go "until the end" in the war in Ukraine.

An air base roughly 12 miles from the Black Sea coast and 180 miles from the key port city of Odesa in southern Ukraine is poised to become NATO's largest base in Europe.

A $2.7 billion project began earlier this year to transform the Mihail Kogălniceanu air base in Romania.

The base, which has been used by the US military since 1999, is set to become the size of a small city, with the capacity to host 10,000 NATO personnel and their families, Euro News Romania previously reported.

Nicolae Crețu, the commander of the air base, told the outlet that the expanded facility would require "maintenance hangars, fuel stores, ammunition, equipment, aviation technical materials, simulators, feeding facilities, accommodation."

"Everything that is needed to support the operation and missions of a base of this size," he said.

A squadron of Romanian F-16 fighter jets recently bought from Norway, as well as MQ-9 Reaper drones, were expected to arrive at the base soon, the BBC reported Sunday.

NATO announced earlier this month that seven Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets had also landed at the base on June 3 to carry out "training and real-world sorties along the eastern flank on the Black Sea coast."

"For two months the Finnish jets are joining a Royal Air Force Typhoon detachment and will be doing quick-reaction alert duty and flying alongside them and Romanian F-16s collectively securing NATO airspace and assuring the Romanian population," Lt Cl Rami Lindström, the first commander of the Finnish detachment at the base, said.

Romanian air force F-16 fighter planes fly above the Baza 86 military air base, outside Fetesti, Romania, Monday, Nov. 13, 2023.
Romanian Air Force F-16 fighter planes.AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru

The US presence at the base is also stepping up, Flt. Lt. Charlie Tagg, a pilot with the UK's Royal Air Force, told the BBC, adding that there was "a lot more infrastructure, accommodation, people, and equipment."

Dorin Popescu, a geopolitical analyst, previously told Euro News: "The Mihail Kogălniceanu base will become the most important permanent NATO military structure in the immediate vicinity of the conflict in southern Ukraine."

"Let's not imagine that this conflict will end this year in 2025 or in 2026," he said. "It's a long-term conflict."

Some Russian politicians have issued stark warnings over the project, with Andrey Klimov, the deputy chair of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, previously warning that it was a "threat" to Bucharest.

"If the Romanians like it, it's their business, of course, but the NATO suicide club drags ordinary civilians into such adventures that can end very badly for their families and children," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.ALEXANDER NEMENOV via Getty

Russian President Vladimir Putin justified his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in part by saying that NATO had been aggressively expanding ever closer toward Russia over the past few decades, and he has long warned against further expansion.

In spite of his rhetoric, NATO has continued to creep further eastward, with Finland joining NATO in April of last year and Sweden joining this past March.

Putin this week issued fresh threats to the West, vowing to go "until the end" in the war with Ukraine.

Defeat in Ukraine, Putin said, would mean "the end of the 1,000-year history of the Russian state," adding: "Isn't it better to go all the way, until the end?"

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