The USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier strike group and NATO allies will launch a major military exercise in the Mediterranean Sea on Monday as concerns surge over Russia’s massing of forces and looming invasion of Ukraine.

The exercise, which has been planned since 2020, will include multiple nations and demonstrate that the trans-Atlantic alliance is “united, capable and strong,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday.

The announcement comes as those bonds may be tested. President Joe Biden raised doubts Wednesday about the U. S. and NATO countries being unified in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

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“I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades,” Biden said during a press conference. “And it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera.”

The “minor incursion” comment sparked a concerned response from the Ukrainians and fueled criticism that Biden was giving Putin an opening to invade — or at least running the risk of causing a miscalculation among nations at the brink of conflict.

As a show of alliance unity, the Truman strike group will sail under NATO control as the centerpiece of Neptune Strike ’22. It includes a carrier air wing with nine squadrons, four guided missile destroyers, and a Ticonderoga-class cruiser that has been in the Mediterranean on a routine deployment.

Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander of the Navy 6th Fleet based in Naples, Italy, will be in command of the carrier. He has a “dual-hatted” role as the commander of Striking and Support Forces NATO.

Several NATO allies will participa… (Read more