US deploys four warships to support NATO allies as Russia build-up continues

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KEY POINTS

  • The Navy said the ships were there to support the US 6th Fleet and our NATO allies
  • The Navy refused to link the deployment to the strengthening of the Russian Navy
  • Russia has started a drill with Belarus, bordering Ukraine amid war threats

The US Navy has sent four guided missile destroyers to join the US 6th Fleet in Europe. This would make the 6th Fleet the largest naval force in Europe since 2018, according to reports.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Donald Cook, USS Mitscher, USS The Sullivans and USS Gonzalez left their East Coast homeports last month as independent deployers for the US 6th Fleet, reported USNI News.

A statement from navy officials said the ships were there to “support the US 6th Fleet and our NATO allies”, thus not linking it to the strengthening of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea.

“Throughout their deployment, they will participate in a range of maritime activities in support of the U.S. 6th Fleet and our NATO allies,” said Navy spokesman Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson told USNI News.

However, the announcement comes just days after reports indicated Russian landing craft and submarines entered the Black Sea bordering Ukraine. Although Russia says the ships are there for a series of pre-planned naval exercises, there are fears that the deployment and the ban on traffic to the region over the next week could portend a « blockade of the sea.”

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and her escorts been parked near the entrance to the Black Sea since late December. This was after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the Navy’s carrier strike group to stay in the Mediterranean Sea region rather than move to the Middle East.

Truman’s escorts include USS Cole, USS Jason Dunham, SS Bainbridge, USS Gravely and the Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310).

Meanwhile, the first group of American troops reinforcing the NATO allies on the eastern flank arrived in Romania. According to the Pentagon, the United States is sending nearly 3,000 additional troops to Poland and Romania to protect Eastern Europe from potential fallout from the Ukraine crisis.

Tensions on the Ukrainian border have peaked with the launch by Russia and Belarus of joint 10-day military exercises. Although Moscow maintains that it has no intention of invading Ukraine, the Kremlin continues to build up its forces along the border with Ukraine.

The Pentagon noted Russia has now deployed troops “north of 100,000″. “We have continued to see even in the last 24 hours additional capacity pouring in from elsewhere in Russia towards this border with Ukraine and Belarus. We are not going to go into providing specific figures, but the figures continue. to increase,” he said.

A satellite image shows an overview of Russian deployments at Zyabrovka Air Base in Belarus, February 10, 2022. 2022 Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS Photo: Reuters/MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES

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