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Ukraine-Russia tensions: NATO exercise planned for next week to show 'defense of the alliance'


The U.S. and NATO forces plan to conduct large-scale military exercises starting next week as a Pentagon spokesperson says officials see “no sign of deescalation” from Russia.  

The naval exercises, called Neptune Strike 22, will occur in the Mediterranean and last until Feb. 4. The USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier will join the exercises, which will include integrated NATO defenses and anti-sub operations.

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Officials started planning the exercises in 2020, and rising tensions with Russia over a possible invasion of Ukraine will not deter years of planning. 

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday that the exercise will show the “deterrence and defense of the alliance.” 

Kirby responded to questions over Russia’s potential to invade Ukraine by highlighting Russia’s “isolation” in contrast to NATO’s cooperative nature. 

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“This is not a country that has a whole lot of friends,” Kirby said. “This is not a country that has allies and partners to lean on the way we do and the way the West does.”

The Pentagon sees a “very sizable force presence” in the region and it continues to “be concerning” as Russia shows no signs of withdrawing any of its troops. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

“In fact, quite the contrary,” Kirby added. “I think they continue to add to the force presence there.” 

“And we remain concerned about that.” 

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Kirby also noted that the Pentagon will continue to assess “options of capability” in case NATO allies require any reassurance, “particularly on NATO’s eastern flank.” 

“If there’s another incursion and if they need that reassurance that they need the capabilities to be bolstered, we’re going to do that and we’re to make sure that we’re that we’re ready to do that,” Kirby explained. 

A Russian tank T-72B3 fires as troops take part in drills at the Kadamovskiy firing range in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. 

A Russian tank T-72B3 fires as troops take part in drills at the Kadamovskiy firing range in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. 
(AP Photo)

And a senior U.S. defense official tells Fox News that the options include sending more U.S. troops to bolster Eastern European allies or sending more defensive weapons to the region. 

“All of these options are on the table, I am told and could be announced in the coming days,” the official said, but clarified that the Pentagon is not actively considering sending any U.S. forces in Ukraine. 

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The Pentagon will remain on alert this weekend to whatever moves Putin makes. 

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin and Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report. 

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