MIHAIL KOGĂLNICEANU, Romania—Until recently, the military base here near the Black Sea was little more than a stopover. Now it is at the front line of NATO’s defense against Russia.

U.S. troops have for years used the aging compound’s airstrip as a transit point for supplying operations in Afghanistan, but in recent weeks American and allied militaries have deployed more than 1,800 personnel, hundreds of vehicles and other military equipment to the wind-swept fields.



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