Final countdown to the Chicago Summit

  • Last updated: 19 May. 2012 17:03

NATO has begun the final countdown to its summit in Chicago – a summit that will ready the North Atlantic Alliance to tackle the challenges of the future.

The Summit, on 20 and 21 May, will take crucial decisions on the NATO-led ISAF mission in Afghanistan, the question of how to maintain and improve defence and security capabilities through difficult economic times, and NATO’s relationship with its global partners.

“We face a wide range of security challenges.  And we will take the necessary decisions to ensure that our Alliance can meet those challenges,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a meeting of young people in Chicago on 19 May.

The “Youth Summit” meeting brought together students and young people from the United States, Afghanistan, NATO member countries and nations around the world for a unique debate on current and future security issues.

Key to the NATO Summit will be decisions on Afghanistan. The Afghan National Security Forces are progressively taking over responsibility for keeping their country secure. As agreed at NATO’s last summit in Lisbon in November 2010, transition is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.

In Chicago, NATO and partner countries in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are to set out how they will make sure the transition process succeeds, and what kind of assistance they will offer once it is completed.

“By the end of 2014, Afghans will be fully in charge of their own security. That is when our ISAF mission will come to an end. This does not mean the end of our commitment – and we will make that clear, here in Chicago,” the Secretary General said.

NATO and ISAF partners, together with the Afghan Government, will discuss a follow-on mission in Afghanistan that is likely to focus on the provision of training, advice and assistance  to  the Afghan forces once the current mission comes to end. They will also discuss how to contribute to  the financing of the the Afghan National Security Forces as part of a broad international effort.

“We will also play a full part in sustaining the Afghan forces. But there is an important role for other members of the international community too,” the Secretary General underlined.

NATO heads of state and government are also expected to take critical decisions on improving the way Allies maintain and develop their military capabilities, to make sure that NATO remains capable of dealing with any security challenge.

Central to the discussion is the concept of Smart Defence, by which nations focus on prioritisation, specialisation and cooperation in order to maximise the efficiency of their defence spending. The Summit is expected to adopt Smart Defence as the new way NATO does business.

“NATO is judged by what it does, and this requires us to have the right capabilities to protect our populations effectively,” the Secretary General said. “By adopting a new approach – the Smart Defence approach – we can do better with what we have.”   

NATO is already putting Smart Defence into practice in areas such as ballistic missile defence, linking together different national systems to create a shared defence. In Chicago, Allies are expected to take a first step by declaring an interim missile defence capability.  

“On its own, no nation would be able to provide this level of protection for its people.  But by working together, through NATO, they can.  It’s cheaper, and much more effective.  This is Smart Defence in action,” the Secretary General said.

Finally, NATO Allies are scheduled to discuss key security issues with partners from around the world – from Western Europe to East Asia, and from the South Pacific to North Africa.

“In today’s world, threats know no borders and respect no country’s sovereignty. They require the broadest possible cooperation between nations and organisations,” the Secretary General stressed.