The US military is weighing whether to withhold the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) from deploying to the Middle East, opting instead to keep the carrier in the Mediterranean Sea, Defense News reported on April 21.
According to three defense officials quoted by Defense News, the decision “under discussion” move is aimed at countering the Russian influence in the region and readying foew a new possible strike on Syria. The officials noted that keeping the Harry S. Truman CSG in Europe would be a major departure from the normal rotational presence missions. However, it would correspond with the new US security policy.
On April 11, the Harry S. Truman CSG left Norfolk for a scheduled deployment to the 6th Fleet and 7th Fleet areas of operation. On April 19, Harry S. Truman entered the Mediterranean Sea, according to the US Naval Institute (USNI) news. The destroyers Jason Dunham and The Sullivans had been also expected to join Harry S. Truman CSG, according to the US newspaper Stars & Stripes.
Some Syrian experts alredy described a possible decision to keep the the Harry S. Truman CSG in the Mediterranean as a sign of further military escalation expected in the region. The April 14 missile strike conducted by the US, the UK and France against the Syrian government changed little on the ground. Forces loyal to President Assad and their allies are still winning in the war. So, Washington has started searching for additional options to acomplish its goas in the region.
On the other hand, keeping the CSG in the Mediterranean is also a clear political move because it has little military reasons if no further strikes on Syria conducted. The NATO has enough military means and measures in the Mediterranean without the US CSG. However, the CSG presence is a show of power and a signal highlighting the US stance towards the Assad government and its closed allies, Russia and Iran.
Defense News writes:
Keeping a carrier close to Russian strategic interests also tracks closely with the Defense Department’s recently released National Defense Strategy that declared that “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.”
Currently, the US Navy has three carrier strike groups in the sea. If it to keep the Harry S. Truman CSG deployed in the European theater for a long period of time, one more CSG will be needed to project power in the Middle East. Such a move will take additional costs and will impact the operational-strategic balance of US forces around the world.
Another problem is that in case of a direct military conflict with Russia, the CSG deployed in the Mediterranean will be vulnerable for attacks.
Some experts also suggest that the CSG deployment in the European theater is a signal to US allies. The move would allow Washignton to prevent a possible crisis within NATO if some of the member states, for example Turkey, rejects to fulfill its responsibilities in the framework of the military alliance.