2 April 2001
the Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson,
Secretary General of NATO
on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of SHAPE
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
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.