Center for Strategic Decision Research


Stability and Restructuring in the Central Region

General Joachim Spiering
Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Central Europe

The Central Region, previously NATO’s primary focus in its defense of the sovereignty and integrity of its member-states, no longer faces a threat just outside its borders. Today the Central Region enjoys relative stability within NATO’s area of responsibility and beyond it as well. Since the breakdown of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, much of this stability can be attributed to our political and military cooperation with our partners in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly through the highly successful Partnership for Peace program. These initiatives have also, inter alia, paved the way for NATO accession, and resulted in the current accession of the three invited countries.


Although there is no direct military threat to the Central Region currently, our primary mission is to remain prepared and able to defend it, and the capability to achieve this remains the prerequisite for all our other tasks. This capability will be maintained by a credible arsenal of defense resources. However, the Central Region has changed from being a receiver of forces and resources to a provider of them—in essence it has become the Alliance’s “strategic turntable.” The Central Region now houses a ready pool of assets with which it can reinforce other NATO regions or contribute to peace-support operations beyond NATO’s area of responsibility. We are, without doubt, the principal force provider in NATO regarding land and air forces. The SFOR mission is a case in point—60 percent of those forces have come from Central Region sources. In addition, almost all of the major ground force formations, at least down to corps level, are multinational, giving us the opportunity to develop multinational expertise and procedures. Sustaining these forces throughout the spectrum of missions are the Central Region’s operating and support-base infrastructure and the command and control assets necessary to direct operations within the Region and beyond.


How are we preparing for the tasks of the future? To meet its new roles and missions, NATO has adapted its C2 structures, resulting in the new NATO command structure and the Combined Joint Task Force concept. The Central Region has been a pioneer in implementing the CJTF HQ concept; we were the first to trial the CJTF HQ and have been nominated as one of three “parent” CJTF HQs providing the Alliance with an initial capability that includes a deployable nucleus of personnel and equipment around which the balance of a CJTF headquarters and CJTF force can be built. We will continue our work on this important project in order to reach full capability, which includes a mobile and modular mix of communications and computer technology designed to optimize flexibility in future operations.


I am sure you are all well aware of the decision regarding the new NATO command structure. Preparations to implement Regional Command NORTH are the current primary focus of both the headquarters staff within the Central Region and the staffs at Headquarters AFNORTHWEST and its principal subordinate commands. These preparations include disbanding HQ AFCENT and HQ AFNORTHWEST and setting up an entirely new HQ at Brunssum. The CJTF concept, NATO accession, and an enhanced PFP program all will have a direct or an indirect impact on virtually every aspect of the implementation, and all are important parts of the overall plan.

In terms of geography, Regional Command NORTH will have an Area of Operational Responsibility four times the size of that currently allocated to the Central Region. Of greater significance is its new maritime responsibility, which will include the maritime littoral of Norway and the United Kingdom, as well as the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, making it a truly joint headquarters at the operational level.

In terms of stability, the new Area of Operational Responsibility will bring new challenges. Regional Command NORTH will continue to contribute to the enhancement of stability together with our PFP Partners in Northeastern and Eastern Europe, particularly in the Baltic Region. It will also remain—for the foreseeable future—the Alliance’s turntable and force provider with headquarters and forces available to take on a full range of missions within and beyond its own region.











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