General Tod D. Wolters, Commander Allied Air Command, conducted a symbolic ground-breaking ceremony at the Albanian Ministry of Defence in Tirana starting off a NATO security investment into Albania’s Kuçova Air Base, say NATO.
“It is hard to imagine that just ten short years ago during the spring of 2009 your great nation embraced the Alliance and here we are ten short years later celebrating the initiation of the infrastructure improvement at Kuçova airbase,” said General Wolters who was in Tirana on behalf of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
“What we anticipate over the course of the next months and years is the continuing improvement of the infrastructure and what will ultimately happen is there will be an aircraft haven at Kucova. We are extremely extremely excited about advancing that cause,” the General added in a release.
General Wolters attended a press event together with the Albanian Minister of Defence, Mrs. Olta Xhacka, who said:
“This year Albania is engaged in leading a number of initiatives aimed at supporting regional security. In cooperation with our NATO neighbours we will continue to promote a policy of extending the course of collective stability and security. This is the only way to clearly demonstrate the Euro-Atlantic values in the Western Balkans.” 
NATO say its ‘Security Investment Programme’ covers major construction projects in Allied countries improving the security of the Alliance. NATO plans to invest 51 million Euros to modernise the facilities at Albania’s Kuçova air base making it operational according to NATO-approved criteria and standards.
Related projects include restoration to the runway, construction of a fighter ramp, upgrade of the air base tower, construction of fuel storage, munitions storage and a new crash and fire station.

31 COMMENTS

  1. This is a good result for Albania. Come to the NATO party with literally nothing to add to the collective defence, then get your airbases developed and money invested in your country by other NATO countries contributions. Meanwhile the Albanian defence budget is not even at 2% of their GDP and they need to expand and invest in their own armed forces. Going to be contentious here. Why were they admitted into NATO andallowed to join?

  2. It is a good result for Albania, and also for NATO. I appreciate that they bring nothing to the table in terms of assets, but if they want to be in NATO they don’t want to be dominated by the Russians, who are strong in Serbia, and the Albanians and the Serbs aren’t exactly friends. It is very much a case of realpolitik, my enemies enemy is my friend.
    Any body want a MIG 15 for a museum?

    • Nick,

      If you can get one delivered to my place, I’m there!

      How cool to have a MiG in the backgarden!

      I’ve an idea. maybe the Albanians could sell them to interested buyers, then maybe pay for their own new runways?

  3. What Albania brings is land mass and an extra buffer for NATO.

    This conversely is why Russia feels its under siege, as their buffer against NATO gets reduced.

    • The Russian under siege narrative is what putin pushes to give him the excuse of increased defence spending while its people are neglected.
      Albania like all of these small eastern nations in NATO had there fair share of kremlin rule thats why they want to join NATO ,good for them.

        • Yes but as I said the eastern block nations decided to join NATO rather than Russia . I have a friend who lived during the hungary uprising, it was not pretty that for sure, Russia only has its self to blame.

          • I’m not on about ex Warsaw pact nations joining NATO.

            That is their right. I’m on about how that is viewed on the other side.

            The Russia under siege narrative in their mind goes back way further.

            I’m on about.

            US / UK SSN off the Kola Peninsula and in the Barents Sea.
            Rivet Joints and others flying north of Russia.
            US Bases in Turkey.
            US Bases in Afghanistan.
            US Bases in Turkmenistan, or whatever ex soviet republic is down there.
            US Bases in Alaska.
            US Bases in the Aleutian Islands.
            US Bases in Japan.
            NATO ships off the Crimea.
            The list is endless.

            Add to this the long held suspicions in the Russian psyche after WW2 and we wonder why the Russians are paranoid.

            And in the Cold War SAC aircraft, including ones piloted by RAF pilots, violating Russian airspace regularly, including flights over Siberia, and U2’s over the Urals.

            I doubt in the intelligence world much has changed, as the flights I mentioned were Cold War era. Especially in the far east in the Sea of Okhotsk, off the Kamchatka, and other areas. So I assume the game is still being played.

            Whatever the rights or wrongs of the current and former Russian regimes people just will not get it into their heads.

            You may well be right that “Russia only has itself to blame”

            But rubbing a bears nose in it will hardly help will it? And if Putin is such an opportunist he will use every advantage he can.

    • Good comment Mr Mandelli I do agree, but I must say they crossed the line with me with the novichoks attacks and their constant lying that came with it ,as they would.

      • Agree on Novichocks Dave.

        Russia is no Angel. Nor Putin.

        On that we agree, I too believe Russia was behind that.

  4. All the former Soviet satellites in E Europe were very poor countries by western standards, with Bulgaria and Albania (Chinese-oriented, not Russian) at the bottom of the pile. NATO has invested in basic infrastructure to get them all on the first rung of the ladder to be NATO-interoperable. As the wealth of the former satellites has increased considerably due to being in the EU, the first wave of joiners are now able to replace old Soviet kit with more modern stuff from the West and play a bigger part in collective defence.

    Albania and Bulgaria in particular need to first invest loads in basic infrastructure like roads and housing and energy supply and hospitals before building up defence. A little pump-priming funding from NATO, which costs peanuts, is a small price to pay to have a NATO-operable airbase available to support defence of the Balkan NATO members.

  5. Well the Albanians have a 60-70’000 strong Armed forces I think ?
    So helping to upgrade their dated defences is a good thing.
    They only have 40 or so helicopters in what ever condition, no jets.
    An extra buffer zone is welcome and we of coarse get to help the people themselves

  6. John,

    Googled it

    14,500 troops. some helicopters. Awesome Buffer! Should take Putin till lunchtime to get through that lot.
    To join any club, you have to meet the clubs criteria, what is more frequently happening is the club alters the criteria or financially supports the applicant in order to help them meet the criteria. Sound familiar?

    Cool flag though!

  7. They could use some modern fast jets. Those Migs look a bit long in the tooth. They should not try to match Russia tank-for tank or aircraft-aircraft, though. Lots of sams and antitank missiles would be good.

    • Albania has a population of 3m, maybe less now, so it’s about the size of Wales, basically 1/20th the population of the UK. That would equate to 8 fast jet combat aircraft by UK standards, so I wouldn’t think that is either NATO or Albania’s first priority. (Italy is actually tasked by NATO with providing air cover and Quick Reaction Alerts over Albania).

      First priority for Albania I’d think will be more modern equipment and personal weapons for the ground forces, probably ex-US kit donated, plus an uplift in signals and c4, CS and CSS to NATO standards. Maybe some SAMs eventually to defend the airbase.

      As others have said, Albania’s value is strategic and political, strategic in providing a forward air base to support NATO allies Romania, Bulgaria and Greece – and how valuable that base will be if Erdogan keeps playing about with allied use of Incirlic, political in that the Balkans is en-route to becoming a NATO domain*, which will send a clear hands-off warning to Russian meddling.

      * 6 countries in NATO, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia and Albania, 2 allegedly in the pipeline, Macedonia and Montenegro, only Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo to follow one day.

  8. Just checked.
    Albania has a defence budget of a massive 200 million US dollars a year. Equating to 1.25% defence budget to GDP ratio. They retired all their legacy 1960+1950 era jets. Fair enough …but without any replacements thus they have zero air defence or interceptor capability. Their air force is mostly helicopter based.
    Impressive allies we have there.
    I guess with a defence budget of 350 million US dollars a year. 2% Defence to GDP ratio, they could afford a few second hand F16s or Gripens so they at least had some sort of an air force. If they spent 2% instead of 1.25 that is.

  9. Albania will be a very useful and potent ally and I welcome this news. Albanians fought for their country in World War II. In the Balkans, only Serbia did as much. They were aided by S.O.E. One of traitor Kim Philby’s claims to fame was betraying dozens of anti-Soviet agents in Albania post-War. Another piece of history laid to rest.

  10. Maybe the revamp and refurbishment of Albania’s Kuçova Air Base might be good for NATO and especially American use in future. Money well spent from that perspective as a forward operating base.

  11. NATO spends and places lots of infrastructure in lots of countries , not just the least well off.So that includes airbases but also SATCOM stations, NATO fuelling jetties, Autec, stores depots
    There are also plenty of schools and training centres dotted around many member states.
    I was lucky enough to visit a few during a stint with NCSA Naples.

  12. It’s not about a contribution to the alliance. It’s about stability in the Balkans. Every time a country in the region joins the EU or NATO, it reduces the potential for further crises in the region that member states would have to become embroiled in. Nato and the EU give these fledgling democracies a framework and support to grow in. It’s also another statement to the anti democratic, anti liberal states of the world. With time it’s possible to see Albania develop small but capable forces that can add value. It’s not all about right now.

    • Precisely. Albania can’t possibly be a buffer state as some ascribe, Russia would have to go through at least 3 countries by land just to get there. What Russia could try though, in some hypothetical future military adventure, is to foment trouble in the Balkans as a distraction while undertaking actions elsewhere.

      Regardless of any potential Russian action, Europe can, both economically and militarily, help to stabilize the Balkans and maintain peace in the region which is a benefit to all of Europe’s security. The Balkans historically seems to be more than capable of generating its own bad actors.

    • 23 NATO members are not spending 2%, why pick on poor Albania?!

      We are not spending 2% either, if we’re truthful, not when you strip out the billions that Osborne and Hammond sneaked into the defence budget – the running costs of Aldermarston AWRE, the development costs of successor ICBMs, a good chunk of GCHQ and MI6 running costs, former MOD civil servants’ pensions and who knows what other sleight of hand bits and bobs.

      So pot and kettle ref this 2%, which some in the UK keep crowing about as if it makes us a Great Power again. When we are spending 3% of GNP or the USA’s 3.5, we will indeed be able to look down our noses at other allies and feel superior, except that it isn’t going to happen.

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