Russia warns Romania over building “largest Nato military base” in Europe

Russia warns Romania over building “largest Nato military base” in Europe
Chair of the Nato Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, visited the base in April 2023. / Nato
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest March 19, 2024

Russian politicians and diplomats have reacted with threats to reports that Romania is building the largest Nato military base in Europe — a €2.5bn project initiated by Romania in 2019 and expected to take 20 years to complete.

The expansion of Romania’s 57 Mihail Kogalniceanu air base on the Black Sea coast, which the Russian officials commented on, is supposed to consolidate Nato’s eastern flank. However, it is important to note the long-term calendar of the project and the fact that it was initiated long before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, with the Middle East to be covered from the base as well.

As part of a series of warnings from Russian officials on March 18 and 19,  vice president of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Council of the Russian Federation, Andrei Klimov, said the project represents a "threat for Bucharest”. 

According to Klimov, the larger the "anti-Russian" military base and the "closer it is to Russia's borders, the more likely it is to be among the first targets for retaliatory strikes”.

“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. I'm not trying to scare anyone, I'm just reasoning logically. There won't be any benefit for Romania from this and there will be more threats, this is a fact," said the senator in a discussion reported by Russian media.

The development of the largest Nato base in Europe — at Constanta in Romania — is a continuation of the "erosion" of security in the Black Sea region, Konstantin Gavrilov, the head of the Russian delegation at the Vienna negotiations on military security and arms control, told RIA Novosti quoted by Radio Romania.

In 2019, Romania's executive approved a project to expand Air Base 57 Mihail Kogalniceanu, used by US forces since 1999.

The project will be financed from the national budget in several stages out of which the first was awarded to contractors in 2022, started last year and will end in 2030.

With a planned capacity of 10,000 military, the air base would still be less than one-fifth of the size of the Ramstein base in Germany but will be one of the largest in Eastern Europe.

Since February 2022, the base proved its utility: thousands of elite soldiers, equipped with tanks, helicopters and fighter jets have arrived there and air policing missions are operated from there.

The trigger for the Russian officials’ warning against Romania’s “hostile actions” was a Euronews (Romania) story published on March 16 and updated on March 18, reporting on the ongoing works at the base. The story creates the impression that the project is new and will be completed quickly.

“The expansion works are in full swing, but once finished, this base from Mihail Kogălniceanu will become the largest in Europe. It will surpass that of Ramstein in Germany and will be able to house more than 10 thousand soldiers who will be able to come here with their families,” the Euronews story reads.

In June 2022, the first RON1.4bn contracts for the first stage of the project were awarded. A contract of RON1.4bn (€280mn) not including VAT, out of the project;’s total value of RON12bn was signed with the completion deadline within 46 months (nearly four years). In April 2023, work on the first stage began.