Biden's pick for NATO chief confirmed

Last updated on July 4, 2022

The Senate has signed off on President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead U.S. forces in Europe and be NATO’s top commander.

Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli was confirmed Thursday evening as the U.S. and European allies work to help Ukraine blunt Russia’s offensive and NATO looks to expand to include Sweden and Finland in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Cavoli, who now commands U.S. Army forces on the continent, will succeed Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters as the head of U.S. European Command and NATO supreme allied commander. Cavoli will assume command in a change of command ceremony on July 1.

He takes the reins as Russian forces slowly begin to gain ground in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Ukrainian leaders have sounded alarms that they’re outgunned on the battlefield amid an intense Russian offensive and calls are growing for the Biden administration to provide more long-range artillery and more sophisticated weapons, such as armed drones, to Ukraine.

Cavoli also takes over as NATO weighs granting membership to Sweden and Finland, Nordic nations that spent decades maintaining official neutrality. All 30 NATO member countries must sign off on Sweden and Finland’s accession to the alliance, however, and Turkey has raised objections that could hinder the expansion.

Testifying during his confirmation hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee in May, Cavoli backed NATO expansion and praised both countries’ military capabilities.

“I look forward to the accession of Finland and Sweden to the alliance from a military perspective,” Cavoli said. “Each of those militaries brings quite a bit of capability and capacity to the alliance from day one.”

NATO will convene a highly anticipated summit in Madrid next week, where leaders are expected to adopt a new strategic concept and weigh bulking up the alliance’s eastern edge and continued aid to Ukraine. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine forced an overnight shift in military posture for many NATO countries as the U.S. and Europe rushed weapons and equipment to the front lines and several countries vowed to spend more on defense.

Cavoli testified that he supports alliance members boosting their defense spending beyond the current goal of two percent of gross domestic product set by the 2014 Wales Pledge.

“I am an advocate of spending more than two percent, at least two percent,” Cavoli told senators, joining several Biden administration officials who have advocated for European nations to spend more on their militaries.

The four-star general is fluent in Russian and received a master’s degree from Yale in Russian studies. He served as a Russia director on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon and also led troops in two tours in Afghanistan.

His promotion was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 15.

The Senate on Thursday also confirmed several other top commanders for U.S. forces in Europe.

Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams was confirmed to become a four-star general and succeed Cavoli as commander of Army forces in Europe. Williams, who is now the superintendent at West Point, will be the first Black general to hold the post.

Senators also approved Air Force Lt. Gen. James Hecker’s promotion to the four-star ranks and to take over U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Vice Adm. Stuart Munsch was also confirmed to be an admiral and as the next commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe.