Pentagon Extends U.S. Carrier’s Stay In Mediterranean

U.S. Looks to Reassure Allies Worried About Russia’s Actions in Ukraine

(WALL STREET JOURNAL 15 MAR 14) … Julian E. Barnes

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said Friday that a U.S. aircraft carrier and its battle group would remain on assignment in the Mediterranean Sea for several more days, as the U.S. continues to cast a wary eye on the crisis in and around Ukraine.

“We will continue our operations in the Mediterranean for a few more days to do additional training and enhance maritime capabilities in the region,” said Col. Steve Warren, the Pentagon spokesman.

Col. Warren said the USS George H.W. Bush’s extended presence in the Mediterranean was part of an effort to reassure American allies worried about Russia’s actions in Ukraine, where a military intervention is under way in the Crimea region.

“A lot of what we are doing there now is to reassure our allies,” Col. Warren said. The U.S. also has stepped up air patrols over the Baltic region and is increasing aviation training in Poland.

Military officials are casting a wary eye on a Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border. Officials also said they believe Russia has continued to reinforce its positions in Crimea, pushing its force there to slightly more than 20,000 troops.

U.S. military officials view the Russian occupation of Crimea as likely irreversible. But they don’t believe Moscow intends to occupy additional areas of Ukraine.

The Russian buildup, however, provides Moscow with more options in the region, and U.S. military officials acknowledged that it was difficult to ascertain Russian intentions.

The buildup complicates U.S. abilities to determine whether the Russian military is positioning itself to enter a larger portion of Ukraine, limiting the time available to react to any potential Russian move.

“We don’t know what Russia’s next move is and we don’t think anyone knows, besides Vladimir Putin, ” said another military official.

Pentagon officials emphasized they were watching developments closely.

“We are keeping a close eye, we are monitoring the situation closely and continuing to call on the Russians to de-escalate,” Col. Warren said.

The aircraft carrier Bush is scheduled to resume its mission of traveling to the Middle East once it is released from the Mediterranean, Col. Warren said.

“Anything could happen, but right now she is scheduled to continue her mission in the next several days,” Col. Warren said.

The Bush won’t enter the Black Sea, because complex international treaty rules limit the size and number of American ships that can enter those waters. There are no plans for other ships in the Bush’s strike group to go into Black Sea, officials said.

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