BRUSSELS — A U.S. Navy officer who advocates a combination of military and diplomatic power to secure strategic goals has been formally appointed as NATO's top military commander, the alliance said Tuesday.
Adm. James G. Stavridis, who heads the U.S. Southern Command, replaces Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock.
Stavridis has a reputation as an outspoken backer of "smart power" -- the combination of military power and the ability to persuade through diplomacy, aid, ideas and trade.
The announcement by NATO's Defense Planning Committee had been expected since President Obama nominated Stavridis in March to become North Atlantic Treaty Organization chief and head of the U.S. European Command.
Traditionally, an American officer commands the alliance's military forces from the headquarters in Mons, Belgium, and a European civilian heads its political head office in Brussels.
A NATO spokesman said the change of command was scheduled for July 2.
Stavridis will be the first Navy officer to hold the post. He was also the first Navy officer to hold his current position.
The NATO job is especially sensitive at this stage in the alliance's 60-year history, amid fighting in Afghanistan and strained tensions with Russia over plans to expand NATO borders eastward.
NATO has about 58,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. Of those, 26,000 are Americans, and 12,000 more U.S. troops are serving under a separate command.
Under the Obama administration's new strategy, NATO will help train the Afghan security forces, which could grow to as many as 400,000, more than double the current total.
Stavridis, a native of Florida, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1976. His last sea command, in 2002-04, was of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, which conducted combat operations in the Persian Gulf in support of the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He holds a doctorate in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.