NATO leaders meet in Chicago on 20 and 21 May 2012. There is no better place for celebrating the unique bond that unites North America and Europe, and for taking the decisions to ensure our future is as successful as our past, says NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Chicago is one of the most dynamic cities in the United States. It is built on diversity and a determination. Many hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans – past and present – came from NATO countries in Europe. And to Chicago’s north lies another NATO Ally: Canada. This year, many Allied nations are holding important elections, including in the United States. Elections are the visible face of democracy, and they are freedom in action. But democracy is about much more than a ballot box and majority vote. It also requires respect for the rule of law, and for the rights of the minority.
Individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law are the very values and principles on which the NATO Alliance is founded. They unite our NATO nations together in a unique community with the shared purpose of safeguarding our security and defending those values.
Elections are the visible face of democracy, and they are freedom in action. But democracy is about much more than a ballot box and majority vote. It also requires respect for the rule of law, and for the rights of the minority.
At our last NATO Summit in Lisbon in November 2010, we agreed a new Strategic Concept. It sets out three core tasks for the Alliance for this decade and beyond: Collective Defence means the Allies will always defend each other against attack; Crisis Management means NATO helps to manage the full range of potential crises; and Cooperative Security means the Alliance will engage actively with other nations and international organisations.
By carrying out these three tasks effectively, we will be able to continue safeguarding our security and values - and fulfilling our shared purpose.
We are already busy implementing our new strategy, but we are having to do so against the background of one of the worst economic crises in a generation. Many Allied nations are reducing their defence budgets, and these cuts will shape tomorrow’s military capabilities and dictate what we will be able to do as an Alliance.
The decisions we take at our Chicago Summit will demonstrate North American and European Allies’ commitment to shared responsibility and shared leadership. By working more closely together, we will prevent the financial crisis from turning into a security crisis. We will ensure that, by the end of this decade and into the next, NATO emerges not just as a leaner Alliance, but also one that is stronger and more flexible.
Sharing the responsibility means each Ally playing a full, fair and active part in all aspects of our Alliance’s activities
Sharing the responsibility means each Ally playing a full, fair and active part in all aspects of our Alliance’s activities.
We live in an unpredictable world. Nobody anticipated the Libya crisis last year, but NATO demonstrated that we are capable of responding quickly, flexibly and effectively.
We are already busy implementing our new strategy, but we are having to do so against the background of one of the worst economic crises in a generation
In 2020, NATO will need to be equally ready to respond to the full range of security tasks.
We need to maintain the ability to put together complex joint operations, at short notice, with high impact and high precision. So we will continue to need flexible, rapidly deployable forces, as well as the right mix of military capabilities.Libya was a strong reminder of what those capabilities are. They include precision-guided munitions, air-to-air refueling, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets. These are the vital capabilities that help to protect our security and minimise risks; but they are also very expensive.
Acquiring them during a financial crisis is a major challenge. But at Chicago, we will demonstrate that we will meet that challenge with a new mindset called "Smart Defence".
"Smart Defence" is about deciding not just what we cut, but what we keep, and where we place our priorities
"Smart Defence" is about deciding not just what we cut, but what we keep, and where we place our priorities. It is about Allies specialising in what they do best, and also working together to deliver capabilities that are too expensive for any of them to deliver alone.
Sharing the responsibility for delivering the right capabilities is important, but it is not enough. Allies must also share the responsibility for making our capabilities, and forces, work together in the most effective way. That is the aim of the Connected Forces Initiative that I expect us to approve at our Chicago Summit.
Finally, a crucial requirement for meeting our shared purpose and our shared responsibilities is shared leadership.
Europe and North America face a broad and complex security agenda. Making Europe whole and free remains work in progress.
In Afghanistan, the United States has been the leading nation from the start of our engagement, but all our European Allies are present there too and are making a significant contribution
The Arab world is going through a period of major change, and further afield, especially in Asia, new security actors are making their mark.
To address this agenda successfully, we need a rebalanced transatlantic relationship. At Chicago, European Allies will demonstrate that they are ready, and able, to assume a greater leadership role.
Already, over the past 20 years, more European forces have deployed in more places than ever before. In Afghanistan, the United States has been the leading nation from the start of our engagement, but all our European Allies are present there too and are making a significant contribution.
In Kosovo, Germany has played a leading role in our operation for some considerable time, and very effectively. And last year, in Libya, other European nations - together with Canada -showed that they can, and will, take the lead in NATO operations.
The Chicago decisions will shape our future, and our Alliance - an Alliance whose members are committed to working together seamlessly, effectively, and efficiently
This shows how different Allies lead different operations; it demonstrates NATO's enormous operational flexibility when there is political solidarity among the Allies; and it underlines that European nations can, and do, share the leadership role within the Atlantic community.
Another area where Europe and North America demonstrate this shared leadership is in continuing to engage other nations and organisations in building peace and stability.
At Chicago, we will meet with representative partners from all regions of the globe. Our vast network of security partnerships is truly unique. By working with partners, we enhance our own security, their security, and the security of the world we all live in. We will see European and North American Allies demonstrate their commitment to the shared purpose of our Alliance. Together, we will take the necessary decisions to assume our shared responsibility and shared leadership.
The Chicago decisions will shape our future, and our Alliance - an Alliance whose members are committed to working together seamlessly, effectively, and efficiently. An Alliance that is capable of meeting the full range of evolving security challenges. And an Alliance that is even more connected with countries and organisations around the world.
NATO already has an impressive history of success. Our Chicago Summit will ensure that it will continue to meet successfully the security challenges of today and tomorrow.