US carrier to lead NATO exercise amid Ukraine invasion fears

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The USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier strike group and its NATO allies will launch a major military exercise in the Mediterranean Sea on Monday amid mounting concerns over Russian force build-up and the impending invasion of the Ukraine.

The exercise, planned since 2020, will include multiple nations and demonstrate that the transatlantic alliance is “united, capable and strong,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday.

The announcement comes as these bonds could be tested. President Joe Biden on Wednesday expressed doubts about the unification of the United States and NATO countries in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

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“I think what you’re going to see is Russia will be held accountable if they invade,” Biden said at a press conference. “And it depends on what he does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up arguing about what to do and what not to do, et cetera.”

The ‘minor incursion’ comment drew a concerned response from Ukrainians and fueled criticism that Biden was offering Putin an opening to invade – or at least risked miscalculating among nations on the brink of the conflict.

As a demonstration of alliance unity, the Truman Strike Group will sail under NATO control as the centerpiece of Neptune Strike ’22. It includes an aircraft carrier air wing with nine squadrons, four guided-missile destroyers and a Ticonderoga-class cruiser that has been in the Mediterranean on a routine deployment.

Vice Admiral Gene Black, commander of the Navy’s 6th Fleet based in Naples, Italy, will be in command of the carrier. He has a “double hatted” role as commander of NATO strike and support forces.

Several NATO allies will participate in coordinated maritime maneuvers, anti-submarine warfare training and long-range strike training, according to Kirby, who did not name the other nations and said referred questions to the alliance.

“As we conduct large-scale exercises, some people participate in certain sections and not others based on their own operational requirements and schedules, as well as the capabilities they are trying to improve,” Kirby said.

The exercise to show NATO solidarity will begin as Russia stands ready ‘at any time’ to launch an invasion of Ukraine, a former part of the Soviet Union, the House press secretary has said. Blanche, Jen Psaki, earlier this week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded guarantees that Ukraine will not be admitted to NATO as he has gathered around 100,000 troops near Russia’s border with the country in recent months.

Biden warned on Wednesday that Russia would pay a “serious and expensive price” for an invasion through sanctions imposed by the United States and other alliance countries. His administration has not offered to use military force to expel the Russians if Putin gives the green light to the invasion.

“We had very frank discussions, Vladimir Putin and I, and the idea that NATO is not going to be united, I do not buy it,” said the president during a marathon press conference at the White House.

PSAKI sought to clarify the president’s earlier comments suggesting a limited invasion could cause disagreements among allies.

“If Russian military forces cross the Ukrainian border, this is a new invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe and united response from the United States and our allies,” she said in a statement. a statement.

— Travis Tritten can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten.

Related: A ‘minor incursion’ by Russia could complicate the West’s response

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