NATO gets a new commander-in-chief: Christopher Cavoli has what is probably the most difficult task in the world: the US general must secure NATO’s eastern flank and organize the weapons and ammunition for Ukraine. He must not lead NATO into a war. The German-born officer is perfectly prepared for this.

He is, he says, a child of the Cold War. Born in Würzburg in 1964 when his father, a US soldier with Italian roots, was stationed there: Christopher Cavoli, currently a four-star general and commander of US troops in Europe and Africa, is scheduled to take over NATO command in the summer. His title then: “Supreme Allied Commander Europe”, short Saceur.

The person who bears this title always comes from the USA – the first was the US World War II General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who moved into the White House as President after mastering the job for the USA in war-crazed Europe. At the side of the supreme commander is the NATO Secretary General, the political head, so to speak, that is traditionally provided by the Europeans.

Cavoli’s task is currently the most difficult in the world: he must support Ukraine at all costs without NATO itself going to war against Russia. It’s a dance on a volcano that can escalate into a hot war between East and West with every howitzer NATO supplies to Ukraine and every missile Putin’s troops fire west. Cavoli determines what the correct response is and where it may be appropriate to take action himself. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 40,000 NATO soldiers have been under the Saceur’s command, and the number is rising.

For the man with the shaved head and friendly dark eyes, that’s a manageable number when he compares it to what his father as an officer and he as a child thought normal at the time. During the Cold War through the 1990s, more than a quarter of a million US troops were stationed in Western Europe.

During this time, Cavoli began his active career in 1987 after completing his biology studies at Princeton. “It was pretty simple: we knew where the enemy was and where they were likely to attack,” Cavoli said in a video interview.

This was followed by officer training in Italy, where the family feels at home, studying Eastern Europe at Yale, and learning languages: Italian, French and Russian – the father of two sons is well prepared for the new task. He was the “Russia Director” of the US Forces in Washington and was actively involved in operations in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

Cavoli makes connections: “In 2013, the last US tanks left Europe. A year later, Russia conquered parts of eastern Ukraine and annexed Crimea. That was a wake-up call.” Meanwhile, heavy weaponry is returning to a new front. The soldiers follow to the border of NATO territory.

The new supreme commander knows how to organize something like this. He planned large-scale exercises in which thousands of soldiers and their equipment were transported across the Atlantic at lightning speed. Now he has to transport weapons to a front that is already under fire on the way there. In recent days, the Russian army has used rockets and fighter jets to try to destroy train stations and railway lines in order to make Cavoli’s task as difficult as possible.

However, he makes no secret of the fact that he is prepared for exactly that: since the annexation of Crimea, NATO has rethought. It was clear that the peace dividend had been used up. Then, with military sobriety, he adds the outrageous: “A war of considerable proportions has once again become possible in Europe.

The article “Born in Germany: NATO’s supreme general should now protect us from Putin” comes from WirtschaftsKurier.