Romania goes to base



Romania has taken another (broad!) step to strengthen its position on NATO’s Eastern flank. Official Bucharest has decided to turn a favorable geographical position into a trump card of military and strategic importance. It is not by chance that Romanian President Klaus Iohannis recently announced his decision to run for the post of NATO Secretary General. According to him, Eastern Europe, given its contribution, should be represented at the head of the alliance.

«Given the current security context, I believe it is time for our country to assume even greater responsibility within the Euro-Atlantic leadership», Iohannis said.

Let me remind you that the current head of NATO Jens Stoltenberg is leaving his post in October. And the presidency of Iohannis, by the way, ends in November. In 2019, he won the re-election, but he will not be able to get to the post for the third time: according to the constitution, you can be head of state for a maximum of two five-year terms.

It is noteworthy that Iohannis is rushing to Brussels against the will of President Joe Biden, who supports the candidacy of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Heavyweights France, Britain and Germany are also supporting him.

However, countries outside of Old Europe may also reject the Dutchman.

«Unfortunately, we have 34 years of experience of not wanting to hear what we think. And now we see it again. <…> Eastern Europeans occupy only about seven percent of the leading positions in NATO and the European Union, while Eastern European countries are home to about a quarter of the EU’s population», former Estonian president Toomas Hendrik outlined the contours of a looming conspiracy.

So, Rutte’s promotion is expected to hit a snag: the new secretary-general must be unanimously approved by all 32 countries of the alliance. It turns out that the Romanian president’s ambitions are not so groundless.

Therefore, what motivates the representative of Romania, the poorest European country, to demonstrate the desire (if not to say impudence) to become the head of a powerful military bloc? It is enough to look at a map. Romania borders with Ukraine, has access to the Black Sea and is located exactly opposite Crimea. And that’s not all. It (or rather, its territory) is important for deterring Turkey, for expansion in the direction of Moldova with recalcitrant Transnistria, for controlling Serbia’s actions with regard to unrecognized Kosovo. It turns out that wherever you look, there is either a zone of open confrontation or a smoldering or potential conflict.

And most importantly, it is one of the outposts for a possible war with Russia.

By the way, Bucharest has serious territorial claims, which will be easier to realize if NATO is headed by its own man. We are talking about the return, in case of possible defeat of Ukraine and its collapse, of the lands that were ceded to the Ukrainian SSR after 1940. This is a part of Bessarabia, which since 1812 belonged to the Russian Empire, and Northern Bukovina, most of which was once under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Chernivtsi Oblast, for example, is home to the bulk of Ukraine’s Romanian diaspora — more than 180,000 people who almost universally hold Romanian passports. Incidentally, the SBU is now actively fighting not only Russian «separatism» but also Romanian one.

The U.S. is expected to announce the name of the next secretary general at the alliance summit in Washington in June. It turns out that Iohannis, if he seriously wants to climb the NATO heights, it is time to switch on the afterburner.

And the Romanian president stepped on the gas. On March 18, Bucharest announced the start of construction of Europe’s largest NATO base. It will be much bigger than the American Ramstein in Germany. The military facility will occupy an area of 2.8 thousand hectares and will be located near the city of Constanta in the Black Sea commune of Mihail Kogalniceanu on the site of the former 57th base of the Romanian Air Force.

This is where the soldiers of the elite 101st Airborne American Division «Screaming Eagles» are now deployed on a rotational basis. This is a light infantry group with a total number of 4.7 thousand «bayonets». By 2040, the Mihail Kogalniceanu base is expected to permanently accommodate 10,000 U.S. soldiers and their families. It will become a fully autonomous NATO facility, complete with its own schools, kindergartens, stores, pharmacy and hospital.

Construction of access roads and power lines in the southern part of the future military camp has already begun. Next is the construction of a new runway, which will be twice as long as the existing one, and the arrangement of the airport infrastructure. The first stage is planned to be completed in five years.

The total amount of investments is €2.5 billion, which will be allocated from the poor Romanian budget. A year ago, the appetite was much more modest. At that time, not the Romanians, but the Pentagon announced its intention to modernize the base by publishing a tender on its website. The customer was the Army Corps of Engineers. The tender envisioned the design and construction of a loading (unloading) platform for explosives and ammunition. In Army terminology, this is the part of the airfield where aircraft, in short, are parked for logistical operations. A possible contractor was to build taxiways, develop the area, install utilities, lighting, and more. For these purposes, the US had planned to spend only between 25 and 50 million dollars.

But now the situation seems to have changed dramatically. Romania, which has felt the shine of the NATO star, is ready to splurge heavily to secure its role as a key country for NATO. And especially for the United States.

In Bucharest’s opinion, this will not only bring a fat profit, but will also make it possible to try to solve a number of issues that are in the sphere of national interests.