SALT LAKE CITY — U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. met with Navy leaders in Italy this week as Russia has increased its naval activity in the region, including a skirmish with Ukraine last fall.
Huntsman met Monday with Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, and Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet, and other senior Navy officials in Naples.
They discussed U.S. military relations with Russia and the security environment throughout Europe, according to the Navy. The conversations focused on ways to cooperate with Russia but also how the Navy is working with allies and to deter Russian aggression and reaffirm its commitment area.
“We seek a better relationship with Russia, but that can only happen when Russia stops its aggressive behavior and creates space for productive dialogue,” Huntsman said in a statement.
“We will continue to impose cost on Russia when it takes actions aimed at our partners and allies and U.S. national security interests," he said. "At the same time, we remain committed to dialogue to de-escalate situations and find areas where we can work together.”
In an apparent show of strength, two aircraft carriers operated jointly in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time since 2016, according to Stars and Stripes.
The U.S. military and its NATO allies have ratcheted up activity throughout Eastern Europe to reassure countries bordering Russia since its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
Over the past few years, Russia has undertaken military buildup in the North Atlantic, Arctic, Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Russia’s continued aggression in Georgia, Ukraine, the Sea of Azov, as well as in Syria and Libya destabilizes those areas, according to the Navy.
"Our deployments and military presence is to deter and defend. It is to prevent — not provoke — a conflict,” Foggo said in a statement. “Our presence in Europe and the relationships built over the past 70 years provide the U.S. strategic access critical to respond to any threats against our allies and partners.”