A second US aircraft carrier has arrived in the Mediterranean amid American officials’ concerns about Russian maritime expansion in the region, the Navy says.
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower entered the Mediterranean late on Monday, leading a strike group of cruisers, destroyers and warplanes, according to the US Navy.
The carrier was deployed to the region to relieve the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group which is currently operating in the area following an extended eight-month deployment. It is expected to head back to the US later this month.
The Eisenhower, also known as the “Ike,” will continue on to the Persian Gulf to participate in US air strikes on purported Daesh targets in Iraq and Syria.
Fighter jets have been flying off the board of the Truman to carry out air strikes on Daesh since June 3.
The Eisenhower’s deployment is part of a rotation of US forces backing maritime security operations around the world, the Navy claimed.
Its strike group encompasses two guided-missile cruisers, four guided-missile destroyers and nine air squadrons.
The Navy said the presence of two US carriers in the Mediterranean is indicative of Washington’s commitment to safety and security of the region, while sending “a strong message of support to our allies and partners in Europe.”
The deployment coincides with NATO military exercises across Eastern Europe and Turkey that may lead to intensification of tensions with Russia.
US officials argue that Russia is sailing its warships and submarines in the Mediterranean and plans to conduct its own military exercises in the coming weeks.
“Combined with extensive and frequent submarine patrols throughout the North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea, and forward-deployed forces in Syria, Russia has the capability to hold nearly all NATO maritime forces at risk,” according to an article written by Vice Admiral James Foggo, who heads the US Navy’s fleet in the Mediterranean, and naval analyst Alarik Fritz, in the naval journal Proceedings.
They said last week that it was important to leverage allied navies to cooperate with NATO allies so that they could respond to emergencies and protect maritime infrastructure.
Russia last week said it would respond to a recent move by the US military to deploy a destroyer, upgraded with a new missile system, to the Black Sea near Russian borders.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that Moscow would respond to the June 6 entry of the USS Porter into the Black Sea.
The US had declared that the mission was “routine” and was meant to promote “peace and stability.”
NATO recently launched its biggest-ever joint exercises in Poland — to the west of Russia, claiming that such military activities are not targeted at Russia, but Moscow has long complained that the military alliance was making inroads into Russian spheres of influence in Eastern Europe.