It is difficult to deny the fact that the two main military rivals to the United States — Russia and China — have been actively working to establish and/or expand their spheres of influence in areas around the globe that directly impact U.S. interests, as well as those of our nation’s allies and partners.
However, in what can only be described as a show of force intended to send a direct message to those rivals — as well as any others who’ve contemplated challenging the U.S. — the U.S. Navy just joined with a few European allies to send two major aircraft carrier strike groups into the Mediterranean Sea for joint exercises.
The U.S. Naval Institute reported that the “dual-carrier, multi-national operation” was composed of the USS John C. Stennis and USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carriers.
The typical array of escorts those carriers usually travel with were joined in the exercises by additional warships, including guided-missile destroyers and frigates, from France, Spain and the United Kingdom.
U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, was invited aboard the Lincoln to observe the exercises as they took place, perhaps signifying the fact that the military exercises were largely intended as a message to Russia and display of solidarity and cooperation among NATO allies.
In an interview with CNN, which was granted exclusive media access to document the maneuvers, Huntsman said, “When you have 200,000 tons of diplomacy that is cruising in the Mediterranean — this is what I call diplomacy, this is forward operating diplomacy — nothing else needs to be said.”
With the awesome power of the combined dual-carrier, multi-national strike force as a backdrop, Huntsman added, “You have all the confidence you need to sit down and try to find solutions to the problems that have divided us now for many, many years.”
With an eye toward Russia’s moves to establish and expand their military presence in places like Syria, as well as the neighboring Black Sea and even in the waters of the Arctic, Huntsman said the massive exercise was as much a warning to Russia as it was a display of the commitment America had to the NATO alliance.
“This is a focus on our NATO colleagues and ensuring that we have the proper messages of reassurance, of collaboration, of a commitment to the region,” Huntsman said. “One that has been very troubled because of some of Russia’s actions. And we’re not leaving and NATO is still the strongest collective security organization in history and we’re a big part of it.”
A media release from the U.S. Naval Forces in Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet noted that the operation was under the command of Admiral James Foggo III, who commands all U.S. Naval forces in the European/African theater and is based out of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy.
“In the era of great power competition, particularly in the maritime domain, one carrier strike group provides tremendous operational flexibility and agility,” Foggo explained.
“Two carrier strike groups operating simultaneously, while also integrating and advancing interoperability with our highly capable NATO allies and partners, provides an unprecedented deterrent against unilateral aggression, as well as combined lethality,” he added. “It also should leave no doubt to our nations’ shared commitment to security and stability in the region.”
The dual-carrier, multi-national operation involved a grand total of 130 aircraft, 10 ships and more than 9,000 sailors and Marines, who took part in a number of various exercises and scenarios that utilized the unique capabilities of the two air wings and multiple different-classed surface ships.
USNI noted that the exercise occurred as the two separate carrier groups were passing each other, one on the way home and the other having just started a new tour.
The Stennis group is set to return to its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, for refueling and an overhaul. The Lincoln group just left Norfolk in March for a roundabout journey through the waters of Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific prior to ending up at its new homeport in San Diego, California.
There should be little doubt that the message sent by this dual-carrier, multi-national operation in the Mediterranean was received loud and clear by the likes of Russia, China, and even Iran, and though none of those rival nations are likely to openly admit it, the show of force almost certainly will cause them to think twice before challenging U.S. naval supremacy in that region, or anywhere else, for that matter.
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