The summit will principally focus on three main themes: the Alliance's commitment to Afghanistan through transition and beyond, ensuring the Alliance has the capabilities it needs to defend its population and territory and to deal with the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening NATO's network of partners across the globe.
NATO is clearly committed to supporting Afghanistan beyond 2014, when the gradual transition of responsibility for the security of the country from ISAF troops to Afghan forces will be fully implemented. At Chicago, leaders will put forward proposals to make this a reality – a mark of their determination to ensure the country will never again be a base for global terrorism.
At a time of austerity NATO is also seeking to ensure better value for money for its security. With the financial crisis in Europe, severe deficit reduction measures in the United States and increased pressure on defence budgets, NATO’s added value is to help countries work together. NATO has the capacity to connect forces and manage multinational projects. This is one of its strengths. At Chicago, “smart defence” - greater prioritisation, specialisation and cooperation - will be turned into a long-term capability strategy. This strategy comprises three major components: firstly, a tangible package of multinational projects to address critical capability shortfalls; secondly, longer-term multinational projects that include missile defence, Alliance Ground Surveillance and air policing; and thirdly, strategic projects for 2020 covering areas such as Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and air-to-air refuelling.
With regard to partnerships, NATO is working more flexibly with partners, within and beyond existing bonds, to address global challenges. Chicago will be an opportunity for Allies to broaden their networks of partnerships and deepen relations at a time when cooperation is no longer considered as a luxury, but a necessity.
The Chicago Summit will have the challenging task of turning words into action, i.e., Lisbon decisions into concrete programmes and initiatives. This implies that Allies will need to continue to invest political, military and economic capital to keep NATO strong. And in the present climate, this means Allies must stay committed to NATO principles, prepared to maintain the necessary capabilities and open to developing connections with partners.