• Romania's Mihail Kogălniceanu airbase is set to become NATO's largest base in Europe.
  • The $2.7 billion expansion will enable the base to support 10,000 NATO personnel and their families.
  • It comes as Putin vowed to go "to the end" in the war in Ukraine.

An airbase located only around 12 miles from the Black Sea coast and 180 miles from the war-torn city of Odesa in southern Ukraine is poised to become NATO's largest base in Europe.

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

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 fleet of Romanian F-16 fighter jets recently bought from Norway, as well as MQ-9 Reaper drones, will also soon arrive at the base, the BBC reported.

NATO announced earlier this month that seven Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets had 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.

"Our objective here in Romania is to enhance our integration into NATO Air Power by honing and deepening our cooperation with the Royal Air Force and the Romanian Air Force", he added.

Romanian air force F-16 fighter planes. Foto: AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru

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

Dorin Popescu, a geopolitical analyst, previously told Euronews: "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."

However, Russian politicians have issued stark warnings over the project, with Andrey Klimov, 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. Foto: ALEXANDER NEMENOV via Getty

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

In spite of his rhetoric, NATO has continued to creep further eastwards, with Finland joining NATO in April 2023 and Sweden joining in March 2024.

Nevertheless, Putin this week reiterated his threats to the West, vowing to go "to 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. I think this is clear to everyone... Isn't it better to go all the way, until the end?" he said.

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