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Just one day after a historic two-day NATO summit in Madrid, the alliance swore in a new supreme allied commander and head of U.S. European Command (EUCOM).
At a change-of-command ceremony in Stuttgart, Germany, General Christopher Cavoli, the American four-star general who has been leading the U.S. Army in Europe, raised his right hand and received command of an expanding NATO that will soon have 300,000 active troops under his watch.
It will also have two new member states — Finland and Sweden — once all 30 NATO member parliaments vote to include them.
“Chris knows Europe better than any living officer in uniform today. Chris is literally purpose built to lead EUCOM,” General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said during the ceremony, accompanied by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Austin thanked outgoing commander Gen Tod Wolters, who has overseen the transformation of NATO in the months since Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24.
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“I believe that future generations will look back on how we all serve the cause of freedom at this pivotal moment,” Austin said during the ceremony. “They all take inspiration from the resilience and the valor of the Ukrainian people. They’ll take heart from the way that nations of goodwill rallied against Putin’s aggression.”
General Cavoli’s father served in the Army 32 years, retiring as a colonel. Christopher was born in Italy at a U.S. military base while his father served. He attended Princeton University and joined the Army as an infantryman with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in northern Italy.
“He grew up in Europe, and he’s lived all over the continent, and he’s fluent in French, Russian and Italian. He reads Spanish and Portuguese. And he can get by and understand Polish and Ukrainian, which enables him to communicate directly with about half the population of Europe,” General Milley said.
Gen. Cavoli served in Bosnia and in combat with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. He commanded a brigade combat team in the first Armored Division. He commanded the seventh Army Training Group in Europe, was a deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and later the 25th Infantry Division.
He was director of the Russia Desk on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, in addition to earning a master’s at Yale University in Russian studies.
“He’s tough. He’s combat seasoned. He’s smart and has a deep understanding of Europe and Russia,” Milley said. “Chris Cavoli is the right officer in the right job at the right time. … We are at that pivotal moment, a transition period in history. And EUCOM makes it matter. You are upholding the rules based international order … You are protecting America’s vital interests. And, importantly, you are preventing Great Power war.”
Gen. Cavoli will oversee some of the biggest military posture changes in Europe since World War II. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the Pentagon has deployed or extended deployments for over 20,000 U.S. troops in Europe.
The U.S. now has more than 100,000 troops based in Europe. And soon the 40,000-member NATO Ready Force will be increased to 300,000 NATO troops.
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“Dwight Eisenhower said that he and the alliance leaders had shared ‘the same passionate hope of serving free humanity and of making it secure.’ We still share that hope. We still keep that flame burning,” Austin said.
At the NATO summit in Madrid, President Biden announced that the U.S. will establish an Army headquarters in Poland that will rotate to protect NATO’s Eastern flank. A rotational combat brigade will be sent to Romania, two F-35 squadrons to the UK, two Naval destroyers to Spain and a short-range air defense battery to Italy.
Another 625 military personnel will head to Germany to operate air defense missile systems.
“Putin is looking for the Finlandization of Europe,” Biden said during the NATO summit. “He’s going to get the NATOization of Europe, and that’s exactly what he didn’t want, but it is exactly what needs to be done to guarantee security in Europe.
President Biden announced Friday another $820 million in security assistance for additional weaponry for Ukraine, including air defense weapons requested by Ukraine’s government.
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This is the 14th draw-down package announced since August 2021 and includes ammunition for HIMARS, two national advanced surface-to-air-missile systems (NASAMS), 155mm ammunition and four counter artillery radars.
Ukraine has four HIMARS, or M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, which are light multiple rocket launchers developed in the late 1990s for the United States Army. They are in use right now and will have another four by the end of July, according to senior defense officials.