Back off, Putin! Royal Navy leads war games with NATO allies as Moscow tensions flare

Russia: Expert discusses new threats to US ahead of summit

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HMS Queen Elizabeth joined other warships from the US and eight other allied nations for operation Steadfast Defender last week. The exercise started off the coast of Portugal and will conclude with ground exercises in the Black Sea region later this month.

The giant armada featured submarines, destroyers and frigates as well as aerial support from RAF’s brand new F-35B Lightning stealth fighters, Portuguese F-17 Fighting Falcons and Spanish F-18 Hornets.

The US anti-submarine Poseidon and Orion warplanes also featured in the huge military exercise.

While the military exercises were not aimed directly at Russia, they focussed on the Black Sea region where Moscow has deployed thousands of troops over recent weeks.

Commodore Steve Moorhouse, the ship’s commanding officer and captain, said: “It shows that we are a global navy and wanting to be back out there.

“The aim for us is that this deployment will be part of a more persistent presence for the United Kingdom in that region.”

The alliance’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg added: “Nato is ready.

“Nato is there to defend all our allies, and this exercise sends a message about our ability to transport a large number of troops, equipment across the Atlantic, across Europe and also to project maritime power.”

Nato warned Russia is mapping the undersea cables which carry commercial and communications data between the US and Europe.

Norfolk’s commander US Navy Vice-Admiral Andrew Lewis warned Moscow may have darker intentions.

He said: “We all lulled ourselves into thinking that the Atlantic was a benign region in which there was not anything bad going on, and we could just use it as a free highway.

“There are nations are out there mapping those cables.

“They may be doing something else bad.

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“We have to be aware of that and answer that.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned Russia’s aggressive behaviour towards Ukraine and vowed the UK will support the “transatlantic alliance”.

He told the Telegraph: “From Russia’s aggressive behaviour towards Ukraine to Lukashenko’s assault on civil aviation, democratic values are under attack.

“As one of the biggest contributors to Nato, UK support for the transatlantic alliance is unwavering.

“We will work with Allies and partners to defend our allies and our values.”

This maritime exercise comes as US President Joe Biden will meet Mr Putin face-to-face this month.

The Switzerland summit will be held at the end of the US President’s visit to Europe and after he meets with American allies in NATO and the European Union.

According to a source familiar with the issue, no significant agreements are expected from the Geneva summit.

Mr Biden – who raised the prospect of a summit with Mr Putin earlier this year – previously expressed the important roles that personal relationships play in foreign policy.

The US President has been a vocal critic of Mr Putin and in February he was asked whether he thought the Russian president was a killer to which he replied: “I do.”

Mr Putin hit back at the remarks and said: “I remember in my childhood, when we argued in the courtyard with each other we used to say: ‘It takes one to know one’.

“And that’s not a coincidence, not just a children’s saying or joke.

“The psychological meaning here is very deep.

“We always see our own traits in other people and think they are like how we really are.

“And as a result, we assess (a person’s) activities and give assessments.”

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