At the Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase in Romania, US troops control the show as military ties between Washington and Bucharest tighten in the wake of Romania's 2004 induction into NATO. But not everyone's happy with the new masters. (Report: N. Bran)
As military aircraft take off and land on a grassy airstrip at the Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase in southeastern Romania, it seems like an everyday scene here. But it is the US Army that’s controlling the shots at this military base located near the Black Sea city of Constanza.
Romania joined NATO in 2004 and put four military bases at the US military’s disposal. Since then, the US military have been visibly flexing their muscles and manpower before their Romanian comrades.
“The US government is putting substantial investments into Romanian bases,” says Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase Commander John Moon. “We’re paving new roads, we’re doing different things everyday.”
After nearly half-a-century under Communism, Romania has made a pact with its former Cold War arch enemy. The Romania military is cooperating on major US military missions across the globe.
In Afghanistan, where NATO troops are battling a Taliban resurgence, Romania has dispatched a small group of soldiers from its 26th Infantry Battalion, also known as the "Red Scorpions." In Iraq, Romanian troops have been battling alongside US soldiers since the start of the war in 2003.
In an apparent payback for Romania’s military cooperation, Washington has pushed for the next NATO summit to be held in the giant ParliamentPalace in Bucharest bewteen April 2nd and 4th.
A possible terrorist target
But as the Romanian government prepares to host the summit in the ostentatious monument in the heart of Bucharest, in the towns and villages around the Mihail Kogalniceanu base, not everyone’s happy with the new military ties with the US.
“The big trucks passing here cause vibrations that damaged all the houses on this street,” says Valer Muresan, mayor of the town of Mihail Kolganiceanu.
Pointing to a gigantic crack in the wall of his modest home, a resident had plenty of complaints. “Our houses were badly damaged because of the big trucks,” he says. “Take a look at these cracks.”
But that’s not the only thing that concerns the residents of this sleepy town.
“An American military base could make us the target of a terrorist attack,” says Muresan.
But for now, the Romanian government isn’t listening and as Bucharest gets set for the upcoming NATO summit, the US can flex its military wings at theMihail Kolganiceanu Airbase.
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