A new general is poised to take command of U.S. and NATO forces in Europe after getting final approval from Congress as the United States works to buttress Ukraine in its war against Russian invaders.
On Thursday night by unanimous consent, the Senate confirmed Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli to become the new head of U.S. European Command, or EUCOM. Cavoli will also be dual-hatted as NATO's supreme allied commander.
Cavoli will take those roles over from Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters in a change-of-command ceremony July 1, EUCOM said in a news release Friday.
Cavoli, who has served as commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and Africa since October 2020, will take charge of U.S. forces in Europe at a precarious time for the continent.
After faltering in its initial goal to quickly seize Kyiv, Russia has been making plodding but notable progress in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region using a near-constant barrage of artillery fire.
The United States has been trying to rush weapons to Ukraine to stave off Russia's advance. The most recent package of $450 million in weapons, including four more High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, was announced Thursday, bringing the total value of weapons sent to Ukraine since the war began in February to $6.1 billion.
U.S. troops, who were training Ukrainian forces inside of Ukraine until shortly before the war began, have also been training the Ukrainians on the more advanced weaponry in Germany since late April.
The number of U.S. forces in Europe has swelled to more than 100,000 in recent months to calm the nerves of NATO allies worried Russia won't stop at Ukraine.
In addition to managing U.S. efforts to support Ukraine, Cavoli will also have to deal with ripple effects in NATO from the invasion. For example, Sweden and Finland recently formally applied to join the alliance, but are facing resistance from NATO ally Turkey, which is seeking concessions from the United States, such as arms sales.
During his confirmation hearing, Cavoli touted the capabilities that Sweden and Finland would bring to NATO, calling Finland's army "well-equipped, very well-trained" and Sweden's navy in the Baltic Sea an "enormous military significance to the alliance."
Cavoli also hinted at the prospect of U.S. involvement in countering Russia's presence in the Black Sea, where it is blocking Ukrainian grain exports and raising fears of global famine. He did not expound on specifics of what U.S. forces could do to help the situation, but said, "Clearly, the current events in the Black Sea region are going to require us to go back and make sure that we adjust everything for the result of this conflict."
-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.