Albania, wary of Russia, reopens Soviet-era air base to NATO

  • World
  • Monday, 04 Mar 2024

FILE PHOTO: Albanian Armed Forces member closes the gate in Kucova Air Base in Kucova, Albania, October 3, 2018. Picture taken October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Florion Goga/File Photo

KUCOVA, Albania (Reuters) - NATO member Albania, which has no fighter jets of its own, opened a rebuilt Soviet-era air base to serve NATO aircraft on Monday amid an increased threat from Russia, Prime Minister Edi Rama said.

NATO has spent over 50 million euros ($54.26 million) on the Kucova Air Base to bolster its presence in the region. Airspace in the Adriatic country of Albania, which borders Greece to the south and Montenegro to the north, is protected by Italy and Greece.

"This is a base that (will add) another element of security for our Western Balkans region which we all know that it is a region endangered from the threat and neo-imperalist ambitions of the Russian Federation," Rama said during the inauguration.

Two fighter jets flying from NATO's Aviano Air Base in Italy landed in Kucova to mark the reopening of the airfield.

The air base is located in the small town of Kucova once known as "Stalin City" when Soviet and Chinese-made MIGs were on standby for orders to scramble in the case of a war with the West that never arrived.

The likely targets then were Austria, Germany, Italy and Denmark, Rama said.

"Today we live in a different era and fortunately Albania is on the other side," Rama said.

Albania, which joined NATO in 2009, is also in talks with NATO to build a naval base at Porto Romano on the Adriatic coast.

(Reporting by Florion Goga, writing by Fatos Bytyci, editing by Nick Macfie)

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