US warships remain in Mediterranean amid Ukraine-Russia tensions

USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier.  US Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Maxwell Higgins / Handout via REUTERS
USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier. US Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Maxwell Higgins / Handout via REUTERS

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a group of US Navy attack ships to stay in the Mediterranean Sea region rather than move to the Middle East., amid concerns about the accumulation of thousands of Russian troops near the border with Ukraine.

A defense official said Tuesday that the change in the schedule of the USS Harry S. Truman and the five accompanying US warships reflects the need for a persistent presence in Europe.. It is necessary to reassure US allies and partners in the region, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the military deployment.

Allies of the United States and the West have seen the concentration of Russian troops near the border grow to a maximum of about 100,000, fueling fears that Moscow is preparing to invade Ukraine.

Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and shortly thereafter supported a separatist rebellion in the east of the country.. For more than seven years, the fighting has killed more than 14,000 people and devastated Ukraine’s industrial heartland, known as the Donbas.

Russia has denied any intention to launch a new invasion, instead accusing Ukraine of hatching plans to try to use force to regain control of territories held by Moscow-backed rebels. Ukraine has rejected this claim.

The USS Cole.  REUTERS / Aladin Abdel Naby / File Photo
The USS Cole. REUTERS / Aladin Abdel Naby / File Photo

The Truman strike group includes five American ships: the cruiser USS San Jacinto and the guided missile destroyers USS Cole, USS Bainbridge, USS Gravely and USS Jason Dunham.. Also with them is the Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen.

The Truman left its home port of Norfolk, Virginia, on December 1 and entered the Mediterranean Sea on December 14. It had been scheduled to continue into the Gulf region.

On the other hand, the United States and Russia to discuss nuclear weapons control and tensions over Ukraine on January 10, informed a National Security spokesman to the AFP.

“The United States hopes to engage (in a dialogue) with Russia,” said the spokesman for the National Security Council.

A meeting between Russia and NATO could later take place on January 12, followed, on the 13th, by a meeting between Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is also a member of the United States, the source added.

FILE IMAGE.  Ukraine conducts military exercises with US forces and NATO allies in the Lviv region, Ukraine.  September 24, 2021. REUTERS / Gleb Garanich
FILE IMAGE. Ukraine conducts military exercises with US forces and NATO allies in the Lviv region, Ukraine. September 24, 2021. REUTERS / Gleb Garanich

“Russia will be able to put its concerns on the table and we will put ours, particularly Russia’s activities,” he said.

“We will hold the main round of negotiations with the US, which will take place immediately after the end of the New Year festivities ”, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said for his part.

The bilateral meeting on January 10 will take place within the framework of the Strategic Security Dialogue Launched by Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin during their Geneva summit last June.

(With information from AP and AFP)

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