No need to add ground forces in Sweden, Finland

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sweden’s and Finland’s efforts to join NATO will not require the addition of additional U.S. ground forces in either country, the U.S. general named to appoint senators told senators on Thursday. take over European command. But Army General Christopher Cavoli said military exercises and occasional rotations of US troops would likely increase.

Cavoli, who is currently the head of U.S. Army Europe and Africa, said the increased military attention will likely continue to focus on Eastern Europe – where nations are more concerned about possible Russian aggression and any spillover of the war into Ukraine.

“The center of gravity of NATO forces has shifted east,” Cavoli told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his nomination hearing. “Depending on the outcome of the conflict, we may have to continue for a while.”

Cavoli was asked about the US troop presence in Europe, which has grown from less than 80,000 to around 102,000 since the Russian invasion ramped up. He said the increase had nothing to do with Finland and Sweden’s more recent decision to seek NATO membership.

Sweden and Finland submitted their written applications to join NATO last week in one of the most significant geopolitical consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Cavoli noted that the United States already has strong military ties with both countries and that additional exercises and other engagements are likely to expand.

If confirmed, Cavoli will be key as the Pentagon assesses its military structure across Europe. Defense officials have noted that historic troop concentrations in Germany, Italy and Britain may well shift and spread to other eastern countries, such as Poland and the Baltics.

Eastern European countries demanded more US weapons and troops, as a cover against Russia. Cavoli said the United States must also continue to strike a delicate balance and ensure that its actions in Europe do not sour relations with Russia and trigger a wider conflict.

“We must not be afraid of activity to stay strong and define our priorities,” he said, but the United States must also be careful “not to delay this and create a problem where it is. there was none”.

Cavoli’s appointment as U.S. Commander-in-Chief in Europe includes the post of Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, giving him a vital role in Russia’s war on Ukraine. Committee members expressed support for his nomination, which should be easily confirmed by the Senate.

Cavoli has extensive expertise on Russia. He served as a foreign area officer with a focus on Eurasia, spent time in Russia, and speaks Russian, Italian, and French. He was also Director for Russia within the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He would replace General Tod Wolters, who currently heads European Command but is ending his three-year tour there.

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