A United States aircraft carrier will stay in the Mediterranean region rather than move to the Middle East as previously planned.
The change in schedule reflects a need for a presence in Europe, according to a statement from a defense official on Dec. 28. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told AP News “it is necessary in order to reassure U.S. allies and partners in the region.”
The U.S. and Western allies have become increasingly concerned about the Russian military presence on the Ukraine border.
Following an order from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the USS Harry S. Truman and the five warships accompanying it — the cruiser USS San Jacinto and the guided-missile destroyers USS Cole, USS Bainbridge, USS Gravely and USS Jason Dunham — will stay in the European Command area.
Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen, which is traveling with the fleet, will also stay in the region.
“Moscow has denied intentions to invade Ukraine, and this month submitted security demands demanding that NATO not expand eastward and roll back its military deployments,” notes The Hill.
Security talks between the U.S. and Russia are scheduled for Jan. 10. Additional meetings between Russia and NATO will be held on Jan. 12 and Jan. 13.
President Joe Biden spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a video call earlier this month following the publication of satellite images of increasing military presence along the Ukrainian border. Currently, 100,000 Russian troops are believed to be stationed in the region.
According to Newsweek, “Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and shortly after threw its support behind a separatist rebellion in the country’s east. Over more than seven years, the fighting has killed over 14,000 people and devastated Ukraine’s industrial heartland, known as the Donbas.”
The Truman strike group left on a regularly scheduled deployment on Dec. 1 from Norfolk, Virginia and Mayport, Florida. With a Tunisian Navy, the group carried out multiple tactical operations and exercises.
The ships would have moved to the area of operation overseen by the Central Command, which includes North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.