Major NATO build-up in Romania as Black Sea conflict with Russia worsens
The U.S. is funding a $152-million construction project in Romania to transform the air base in Câmpia Turzii into a “new major hub for NATO aircraft in the Black Sea region,” in the words of a report from Balkan Insight of last month. The U.S. has deployed warplanes to the base since Romania became a NATO member in 2004. In fact, the following year the U.S. acquired access to several military bases in the country, including the Mihail Kogălniceanu International Airport (and several more in neighboring Bulgaria the next year).
In 2016 the U.S. installed a missile shield land-based Aegis SPY-1 radar and twelve missile tubes for the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB interceptor missile in Deveselu .
In 2019 the Pentagon began upgrading the Mihail Kogălniceanu base.
U.S. European Command maintains Black Sea Area Support Group (formerly Joint Task Force-East) troop deployments in Romania as well.
The construction at Câmpia Turzii began in May and is to be completed in August according to the above-mentioned site, which also quoted a former Romanian government official as contending, “The upgrade is important because Romania needs to boost its capacity to receive further NATO aircraft in case of a crisis or conflict that require a collective response.”
The same source stated, “Romania also needs a second major air base that meets NATO standards so it can serve its newly acquired F-16 jets.”
NATO deployed two representatives of its Allied Command Operations to Romania recently to inspect troops participating in the Steadfast Defender 2021 NATO exercise which included over 9,000 troops from more than twenty NATO member and partner states and was led by Turkey as commander of the bloc’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.
Yesterday NATO reported that it had dispatched three maritime specialists from its Maritime Command (MARCOM) to Romania to assist the newest NATO Land Corps Headquarters of the Multi-National Corps South East. That operation was activated this February. The specialists joined personnel from Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (in Britain) “in providing their expertise over the next month…to help their Romania-based colleagues to develop defence and deterrence capability in the Black Sea region.”
As NATO is expanding into other Black Sea nations – member states Bulgaria and Turkey, Enhanced Opportunity Partners Georgia and Ukraine – its focus is primarily on Romania, which hosts the Bucharest Nine front line of what NATO calls its Eastern Flank.