1989-1992: End of Cold War Transforms the Alliance

SACEUR Galvin welcoming Soviet General Moiseyev during his historic visit to SHAPE in 1990

SHAPE now entered one of the most remarkable periods in modern European history. During the tenure of the ninth SACEUR, U.S. Army Gen. John R. Galvin, SHAPE helped NATO respond to a series of extremely complex and momentous changes: the end of the Cold War marked by the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the unification of Germany one year later, the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the break-up of the Soviet Union itself in 1991, rapidly improving East-West relations, the "Springtime of Nations” in Eastern Europe, Military Cooperation with former members of the Warsaw Pact, and calls for a "Peace Dividend” and the transformation of NATO itself.  One of the most dramatic signs of the end of the Cold War came in October 1990, when the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union, General M.A. Moiseyev, visited SHAPE.  Less than a year later, the Soviet Union itself no longer existed.

During the final stages of the Cold War SHAPE struggled to articulate the need for deterrence and viable defensive plans and forces. In 1990 SHAPE began a radical review of ACE nuclear plans, forces and targeting policy to take into account the end of the Cold War and NATO's new Strategy, which was officially adopted in 1991.

SHAPE also coordinated the safe withdrawal of American chemical and intermediate range nuclear weapons from Europe. From 1990 onward SHAPE played an important role in NATO's efforts to increase contacts with Soviet military leaders in order to convince them of NATO's peaceful intentions. In 1991 SHAPE established a Military Contacts Cell to foster military cooperation with former Warsaw Pact members. SHAPE's "Right Mix” Studies changed ACE training and exercises to reduce their former Cold War focus and make them more relevant to new operational demands.

Studies of NATO's future force structure resulted in the decision to establish the ACE Rapid Reaction Corps and ensure more flexible force structures that were appropriate to the post-Cold War environment.

SHAPE also provided considerable support to the negotiations that resulted in the Conventional Forces in Europe arms control treaty in 1990 and then worked to bring allied defence planning into line with the developments in arms control. In response to desires for major defence savings in the form of a "Peace Dividend” and also for a greater European role in ACE, SHAPE began a reorganisation of all ACE headquarters in 1990, which resulted in a 25% reduction in staff and Europeans taking over several influential posts previously held by American officers.

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, SHAPE implemented precautionary measures to ensure the security of NATO's Mediterranean members and prevent the spread of tension and conflict. Such measures included increased coverage of the area by NATO Airborne Early Warning aircraft, deployment of NATO naval forces to deal with any threats to shipping in the Mediterranean, provision of significant logistics and air defence support to Turkey, and the deployment of the ACE Mobile Force (Air) to Turkey in January 1991. While not a direct participant in the Gulf War, Allied Command Europe played a major role in supporting those NATO member states threatened by the conflict.

Soon after the end of the Gulf War, a new crisis broke out within Europe itself. The multi-ethnic state of Yugoslavia began falling apart, and fighting broke out in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia- Herzegovina. The region quickly was caught up in a paroxysm of nationalism, hatred, violence and atrocities unseen in Europe since the Second World War.

 

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