Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you. I would like to pay particular tribute to Iveta, who I understand will be playing the part of NATO Secretary General this afternoon, during the North Atlantic Council simulation. I wish you luck! And if you manage to get the all nations to agree to everything on the agenda, then perhaps we can talk later and you can give me some tips for my meetings tomorrow.
It is great to be back in Chicago. As many of you know, my son settled with his family in America. Of my four grandchildren, two are European and live in Denmark. And the other two live in Springfield, the capital of Illinois. So for me, the relationship between Europe and America is very strong, very close, and very personal.
But I’m not the only one here today who has a special interest in the transatlantic relationship. I am happy to see Fred Kempe, the Chief Executive Officer of the United States Atlantic Council, and Damon Wilson, the Council’s Executive Vice President. You have dedicated your lives to reinforcing the links between Europe and America. I want to thank you both for your dedication. And I thank you and the US Atlantic Council for co-sponsoring this event.
Our other co-sponsor is the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Its President, Marshall Bouton, is also here with us this morning. Marshall, we’ve had a wonderful welcome here in Chicago – and we are very grateful indeed.
Many of you will know Professor Nwanze, from Howard University in Washington. He’s been organising Model NATO for 27 years. And introducing more and more American, Canadian and European students to NATO and Alliance issues. Professor, you do a great job promoting NATO, and we are delighted to see you here.
And last, but by no means least, let me thank Fran Burwell. It’s Fran who has done all the hard work and put this conference together. So Fran, from me, and on behalf of everyone here this morning – thank you for the fantastic work you’ve done.
I am sure that last night, many of you were out and about enjoying the delights downtown. And I can think of no better host city for a NATO Summit than Chicago. As you will have seen, it’s diverse. Dynamic. It brings together people from many countries and backgrounds. In short, it’s a lot like NATO. Chicago draws inspiration from its people, and in turn, the city inspires others around the world. And I am sure it will inspire all of us at our Summit.
But before we discuss the decisions we will be taking at the NATO Summit, I would like to take a moment to thank you for your interest in our Alliance. You are the future – whether you are one of the Young Atlanticists. Or one of the winners of NATO’s iReps contest. Or one of the members of the Model NATO team from Howard University. Or one of the 12 Fulbright students from Afghanistan. It’s great to see all of you here – particularly so early in the morning. I’m really looking forward to hearing your questions, and your views.
We have come here to Chicago to discuss, to debate, and to decide. We face a wide range of security challenges. And we will take the necessary decisions to ensure that our Alliance can meet those challenges.
There are three issues in particular that will feature prominently at this Summit: the future stability of Afghanistan; the military capabilities we need to do our job; and working more closely with our network of partner countries around the globe.
Over the next two days we will take stock of the progress we are making in Afghanistan. And we will set out our plans for the future.
Our goal is to make sure that Afghanistan will never again be a safe haven for terrorists. Terrorists who used the sanctuary of that country to plan horrendous attacks such as those on 9/11.
And we are making good progress towards that goal. With our help, Afghan forces are already in the lead for providing security for half the country’s population. And they are growing more capable and confident day by day. I saw Afghan special forces training outside Kabul just a few weeks ago – and I was truly impressed.
Last Sunday, President Karzai announced a major group of provinces, cities and districts which will make the move to Afghan security lead in the coming weeks. Once this decision is implemented, transition will have begun in every one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. Including every provincial capital. And three quarters of the Afghan population will be looking to their own forces for their own security.
Next year, we will reach a really significant point in our shared journey. Because that is when the Afghans will be in the lead for providing security throughout their country. This means that we will gradually shift our role from combat to support. And 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. We will lay out how we will continue to support Afghanistan, and its people, beyond that date. We expect to have a new mission, to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces so they remain strong in the years to come.
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. Particularly in the areas of reconstruction and development, and also in helping the Afghan authorities to build the institutions that are necessary to run a country effectively and fairly.
And of course, it is for the Afghans to shape their own future. They have pledged to preserve freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental human rights. And of course that also includes women’s rights. For Afghanistan, it’s crucial that women are allowed to play their full part in shaping the future of the country. And we expect the Afghans to honour these commitments.
Let me be clear. NATO will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan. So that we can help Afghanistan to offer a better future to all of its citizens – and more security for all of ours. And we will underline that commitment at our Summit here in Chicago.
The second key subject on our agenda will be capabilities. NATO is judged by what it does – and this requires us to have the right capabilities.
We will set out our vision of ‘NATO Forces 2020’ – military forces that are strong, flexible and deployable. Forces that can work alongside each other. And that can cope with the full range of security challenges we might face.
However, paying for such capabilities is not easy. Especially when defence budgets are being slashed across the Alliance. But there is a solution. It’s called ‘Smart Defence.’
By adopting a new approach – the Smart Defence approach – we can do better with what we have. This means setting clear priorities for what we should spend our defence dollars and euros on. It means specialising in what nations do best. And it means working more closely together to provide capabilities that no single nation can afford. Maybe except one...
Let me give you an example of what Smart Defence means. At our last Summit in Lisbon, we agreed to build a system to protect NATO’s European populations and territory from missile attack. Nations are making individual contributions, and NATO is bringing it all together into a single system.
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. And at the Summit, we will adopt Smart Defence as a new approach to help us turn our vision of NATO Forces 2020 into reality.
The third subject I want to touch on is partnership. In today’s world, threats know no borders and respect no country’s sovereignty. They require the broadest possible cooperation between nations and organisations.
Here again, NATO has been hard at work. It is at the centre of a vast network of security relationships with countries around the globe. From Austria to Australia, from El Salvador to Singapore, and from Morocco to Mongolia.
Our Summit this weekend will be the biggest in NATO’s history. Some 60 countries and organisations are represented. And they are all coming together for a common purpose. To find common solutions to common challenges.
22 partners have joined our 28 Allies in helping to bring stability to Afghanistan. In Kosovo, eight partners are helping NATO to preserve peace. And partners from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa provided essential political and operational support for our operation in Libya last year.
At our Summit, we will build on this success by strengthening our ties with our partners.
Ladies and gentlemen,
NATO is the security partner of choice for many countries across the globe. NATO remains unmatched in its ability to deter any potential military threat, and to deploy forces to manage crises. By standing together, all Allies can get more security than by going it alone.
NATO offers the ultimate value and security for money.
I began by describing my very personal family relationship to Europe, and to America. NATO is the home for this very special transatlantic family of nations. It’s a home where we all share the same values – freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. And it’s a home where we are safe and secure.
For over sixty years, NATO has successfully protected my generation. Our decisions here at Chicago, and your continued interest and engagement in NATO, will help to protect your generation too – today, tomorrow and well into the future.
Thank you very much.