SAN DIEGO — As the Navy aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman and its strike group steams in the Mediterranean Sea — close to a bevy of Russian ships that have arrived there ahead of a potential invasion of Ukraine — the service’s top officer says the stakes of any encounter between the two navies have grown significantly.

President Biden said Friday that he believes a Russian invasion of Ukraine is now imminent, and that Moscow plans to attack the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

This sobering reality means that any misunderstanding between NATO and Russian ships in the region carry that much more consequence, Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, told reporters Friday.

“Given this current situation, the chance for miscalculation is greater,” Gilday said.

But Gilday also noted that “we operate in and around the Russians and the Chinese all the time, so this is nothing new.”

He told reporters Wednesday that the Navy now has more than 20 ships deployed to the theater.

Training to a high standard will help ensure that ship commanding officers make the right moves and “communicate very clearly that we’re not cowboys out there.”

Asked about Biden’s comments, Gilday said Truman and the other ships in the region fall under U.S. European Command, and that Truman will remain on station “for the foreseeable future,” as far as he knew.

“We need to be forward to be relevant,” he said. “Truman’s in the right place.”

Gilday was here for a panel at WEST 2022, a Navy and defense industry conference.

In addition to nearly 200,000 Russian troops now massed around Ukraine, Moscow has poured warships, submarines and other naval assets into the Mediterranean and Black seas in recent weeks.

“We haven’t seen a movement like this in recent history” in the Black Sea, retired Adm. James Foggo, who commanded U.S. and NATO naval forces in Europe before retiring in 2020, told POLITICO earlier this month.

Truman has in recent weeks exercised with the French carrier Charles De Gaulle, the Italian carrier Cavour and their assorted strike groups.

The Navy also last week confirmed the deployment of four guided-missile destroyers to the region, although officials say the move is not in response to the Russian buildup.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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