The US Department of Defense (the Pentagon) announced on Friday that large-scale naval exercises by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will begin Monday in the Mediterranean, with the participation of the US aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman, in the midst of escalating tensions with Russia, which announced Turn on simultaneous workouts.
US Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said that the “Neptune Strike 22” maneuvers will continue until February 4 and are aimed at demonstrating the alliance’s ability to integrate the advanced naval strike force of an air group to support the alliance’s efforts in deterrence and defense.
Kirby stressed that these exercises have been in preparation since 2020 and have nothing to do with the current tensions around Ukraine, although “Neptune Strike 2022” is not included in the list of exercises scheduled for 2022 and published on the NATO website on December 14. the first.
Kirby said that “the operation itself is not designed to confront the scenarios that could happen” in the Ukraine file, stressing that they are NATO naval exercises aimed at testing a wide range of naval capabilities that the alliance is keen to continue to enhance.
And last Thursday, Russia announced comprehensive naval exercises with the participation of more than 140 warships and about 10,000 soldiers, which will take place between January and February in the Atlantic Ocean, the Arctic, the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean.
Kirby acknowledged that the tension with Russia necessitated discussions with allies about conducting these exercises, and said, “After discussions with our NATO allies, it was decided to move forward.”
And the US aircraft carrier “Harry Truman” has been in the Mediterranean with its air group since mid-December.
The aircraft carrier was scheduled to join the Central Command’s area of operations (CENTCOM), but US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin decided at the end of December to keep it in the Mediterranean waters in order to “reassure” the Europeans in the midst of existing tensions with Russia.
Without mentioning the existing tensions over Ukraine, where Kiev and its Western allies accuse Moscow of massing 100,000 troops at the border in preparation for a possible invasion, the Pentagon stressed that the carrier’s change of course “reflects the need for a continued presence in Europe.”