NATO launches major naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean amid tensions with Russia


NATO launched a naval exercise Monday with a US aircraft carrier strike group joined by forces from other NATO allies practicing coordinated maneuvers in the Mediterranean.

Dubbed Neptune Strike ’22, the exercise has been in the works since 2020 and is not designed to test possible scenarios Ukraine, said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Friday.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that “this exercise will help demonstrate the unity, capability and strength of the transatlantic alliance.”

In a press release last week, the Russian Defense Ministry announced its own exercises in all areas of responsibility, including the Mediterranean. The exercises are scheduled to take place in January and February and will involve more than 140 ships and support vessels, 60 aircraft and about 10,000 military personnel.

The USS Harry Truman carrier strike group is under NATO command and control in the exercise, which is scheduled to last until February 4. NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said this was the first time a US aircraft carrier had been placed under NATO command since the Cold War.

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Neptune Strike ’22, a naval exercise in the Mediterranean.

Twitter / Dylan P. White

The exercise comes as American and European officials continue to express concerns about Russia’s military buildup near the Ukrainian border, which shows no signs of de-escalation.

NATO announced Monday it will send additional ships and warplanes to allies in Eastern Europe as a deterrent, with the potential to send more if Russia invades Ukraine.

“We have a US aircraft carrier group under NATO command – which is not in the Baltic Sea – but of course it’s important for the security of Europe, so we’ve stepped up,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday while listing others Steps Allianz has recently taken.

“But that’s defensive. NATO is not threatening Russia. It’s proportionate,” said Stoltenberg.

Kirby said on Friday there were considerations of possibly canceling the exercise amid tensions with Russia, but ultimately NATO decided to go ahead with the long-planned exercise.

Russia has accumulated over 100,000 troops along the border with Ukraine, and American officials have said Russian President Vladimir Putin has the ability to launch an invasion at any time – although they are unsure if he made the decision to do so.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Face the Nation‘ on Sunday that there will be ‘massive consequences’ for Russia if its forces invade Ukraine.

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