Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered US warships to stay in the Mediterranean amid tensions between Ukraine and Russia, a defense official told The Hill.
Austin ordered the USS Harry Truman Carrier Strike Group to remain the European Command area of ââoperations instead of transiting to the Central Command area of ââoperations, which includes North East Africa, the Middle East to South Asia.
The change “reflects the need for a continued presence in Europe and is necessary to reassure our allies and partners of our commitment to collective defense,” the official said.
The official referred further questions about the deployment to European Command, which did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill.
The change comes as the United States and NATO warn that Russia may prepare to invade Ukraine as Moscow massages tens of thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border.
Moscow has denied its intentions to invade Ukraine and submitted security demands this month demanding that NATO not expand eastward and cancel military deployments.
U.S. and Russian officials will meet on January 10 to discuss Russia’s demands, and this will be followed by a NATO-Russia Council meeting on January 12.
The Truman Carrier Strike Group departed Naval Base Norfolk, Va., And Mayport, Fla. On December 1 for a regular deployment, and proceeded to the Mediterranean Sea. Last week, the group carried out multiple tactical operations and exercises with the Tunisian navy.
The group includes the flagship USS Harry Truman, as well as the USS San Jacinto, as well as the guided-missile destroyers USS Bainbridge, USS Cole, USS Gravely, and USS Jason Dunham.