Updated: 02-Apr-2001 NATO Speeches

2 April 2001


by the Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson,
Secretary General of NATO
on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of SHAPE

General Ralston,
Generals, Admirals,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to be here, with you, on the 50th anniversary of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. This is truly an anniversary to commemorate -- because throughout its five decades, SHAPE has been at the very centre of Euro-Atlantic security.

This proud history might have been difficult to predict when NATO itself was founded. After all, in 1949, there were no political or military headquarters. There was no command structure, no permanent political body, no strategic concept for the defence of the member states. As Dean Acheson said, our Governments were basically hoping that, "in the event of trouble a plan and the forces to meet it would be adopted by a sort of spontaneous combustion".

Of course, SHAPE did come together a few years later, under the first SACEUR, General Eisenhower. Throughout its history, SHAPE has maintained a single, clear focus on its primary mission -- ensuring the freedom and security of NATO's members.

For forty years, SHAPE was the nerve centre of Allied response against a potential Soviet attack. It is no exaggeration to say that the credibility of this organization was one of the most effective deterrents in NATO's arsenal, during the dark days of the Cold War.

In the past decade, SHAPE has adapted, quickly and flexibly, to build security in the new Europe - to meet new challenges, with new Partners, in new theatres. And in the many operations in the Balkans -- from Operation Sharp Guard some years ago, to KFOR today -- here too, SHAPE has, again, met with nothing but success.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

SHAPE has always been a unique experiment. As General Eisenhower put it, it was the first time that a multinational army was created "to preserve the peace and not to wage war". History proves that SHAPE has met its mission with total success. For fifty years, the security of the citizens of all of our countries has depended on the people who work here. Under General Eisenhower fifty years ago, and under General Ralston today, SHAPE has met that challenge. Let me say clearly, on behalf of all of NATO's members: thank you -- and congratulations.

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