The United States announced on Friday that a large-scale NATO naval exercise in the Mediterranean will begin on Monday with the participation of the US aircraft carrier Harry Truman.
The exercise was announced at a time of growing tensions with Russia, which will be conducting its own sea maneuvers at the same time.
“[Mācības] “Neptune Strike 2022 will run through Feb. 4 and is designed to demonstrate NATO’s ability to integrate the naval base’s capability into the Alliance’s deterrence capabilities in support of the Alliance’s deterrence and defense capabilities,” said John Curby, a Pentagon spokesman.
He said preparations for the exercise began in 2020 and had nothing to do with fears that Russia might invade Ukraine, where Moscow has concentrated tens of thousands of troops.
However, Neptune Strike 2022 does not appear in the list of 2022 planned exercises, which was published on the NATO website on 14 December.
“The lessons themselves are not designed against the scenarios that could happen to Ukraine,” Curby said.
“It is indeed NATO’s naval exercise to test (..) a wide range of naval capabilities that we want to continue to improve.”
Russia said on Thursday it would hold naval exercises with more than 140 warships and about 10,000 troops in January and February. These maneuvers will take place in the Atlantic, the Arctic, the Pacific and the Mediterranean.
Cherby acknowledged that tensions with Russia had sparked discussions among NATO members over the conduct of the exercise.
“Given the tensions right now, our training position has been duly considered. And after all this consideration and discussions with our NATO allies, it has been decided to hold them,” Curby told reporters.
Harry Truman and his band have been in the Mediterranean since mid-December. The ship was scheduled to join the US Central Command’s area of operations, but US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin decided to keep it in the Mediterranean in late December to “encourage” European countries in the face of tensions with Russia.
Not to mention the tensions on the Ukrainian border, where Russia has concentrated 100,000 troops, the Pentagon has stressed that the ship’s change of course “reflects the need to continue its presence in Europe”.