Albania reopens ‘Stalin City’ base


(MENAFN) Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has officially reopened the long-dormant Kucova Air Base, a Soviet-era airfield located south of Tirana, as part of NATO's efforts to bolster its regional presence. Despite lacking military jets of its own, Albania aims to provide another strategic base of operations for NATO aircraft, investing EUR50 million (USD54 million) in a two-year refurbishment and modernization project supported by the Western military alliance. The reopening ceremony took place on Monday, with Rama emphasizing the need for enhanced security in the Western Balkans region amidst perceived threats and ambitions of Russian expansionism.

The Kucova Air Base, once home to Soviet aircraft during Albania's communist era, had been closed in 2005 and had since become a graveyard for rusting Soviet planes. With its reopening, the base now serves as a crucial asset for NATO, offering facilities for aircraft refueling and ammunition storage. The ceremony witnessed the flyover of two United States F-16s and other NATO fighter jets, with two Eurofighter Typhoons making a landing.

Prime Minister Rama highlighted the geopolitical significance of the Kucova Air Base in safeguarding the Western Balkans region against what he termed as "neo-imperialist threats and ambitions of the Russian Federation." Albania, a NATO member since 2009, seeks to strengthen its ties with the Western military alliance, positioning itself as a proactive contributor to regional security.

The reopening of the air base aligns with Rama's government's broader strategy to enhance Albania's strategic position within NATO. Additionally, talks are reportedly underway with NATO to construct a naval base on the Adriatic coast in Port Romano, further solidifying Albania's commitment to regional security. Rama's recent hosting of a regional summit, where Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Zelensky sought increased military aid, underscores Albania's alignment with NATO's anti-Russia stance.

As Albania revitalizes historical military infrastructure to meet contemporary security challenges, the reopening of the Kucova Air Base symbolizes the country's evolving role within NATO, positioning itself as a key contributor to the alliance's regional strategy amid growing concerns over Russian activities in the Western Balkans.

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