NATO’s 25th summit meeting

Chicago, 20-21 May 2012

  • 20 May. 2012 - 21 May. 2012
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  • Last updated: 21 May. 2012 01:05

At the Chicago Summit, 20-21 May 2012, NATO will drive forward key Alliance principles and policies that will shape the Alliance of 2020 and beyond. It will deliver on decisions taken at the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, turning them into concrete programmes and initiatives.

Allies will commit to maintain the necessary capabilities and to developing cooperation and dialogue with partners. And at a time of austerity, it will be a question of striking the right balance between fulfilling NATO’s shared responsibilities and balancing national budgets.

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 an essential source of stability. In order to maintain its capacity to safeguard the security and values of its members, it needs to continue developing the means to do so and building partnerships beyond the North Atlantic region.

For more information on Alliance policies and activities, please check the online “A to Z” pages of the NATO website.


I. Operational priorities

Afghanistan – through transition and beyond

NATO is committed to supporting Afghanistan beyond 2014, when the gradual transition of security responsibility from ISAF troops to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will be fully implemented and the ISAF mission will come to a close. Until then, and as transition implementation progresses, the ISAF mission is evolving from a combat to a support role. In 2013, when the last tranche of transition is expected to be announced, the ANSF will be in the lead for combat operations across the country. ISAF will increasingly shift to a training and advising role, but continue to support combat operations alongside Afghan forces, as necessary.

At Chicago, leaders will map out how NATO intends to complete the transition process by end-2014. They will also agree on how NATO will provide training, advice and assistance to the ANSF, and will demonstrate their commitment to sustaining the ANSF beyond 2014, as part of the Afghan government’s and the broader international community’s efforts.

Other operational priorities

NATO is also engaged in other operations and missions, all of which are explained below.


II. Developing capabilities under budgetary constraints

At a time of austerity NATO is also seeking to ensure better value for money for its security. With the financial crisis in Europe and beyond, 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. However, the challenge is having to prepare NATO today, for the security challenges of tomorrow.

“Smart defence”

In Chicago, Allies will support new multinational projects that will allow the Alliance to provide more security for its citizens in an age of financial austerity.  The  goal is an Alliance that is fit for the next decade and beyond. The way to get there is confirming a renewed culture of cooperation – “smart defence”.

Projects in the spirit of Smart Defence will comprise a package of multinational projects to address critical capability shortfalls. They  will  include programmes such  as as  missile defence, Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) and Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance as well as projects covering areas such as pooling maritime patrol aircraft and remote-controlled robots for clearing roadside bombs  

Reviewing NATO’s defence and deterrence posture

At Chicago, heads of state and government will also examine NATO’s mix of conventional, nuclear and missile defence forces, known as NATO’s Defence and Deterrence Posture Review. This was mandated at the Lisbon Summit. This review will allow NATO to check its overall posture in deterring and defending against the full range of threats to the Alliance, taking into account the changes in the evolving international security environment.

Seeking to optimise assets

Being able to put together complex joint operations at short notice is a priority for the Alliance. To do this at a time of crisis, NATO is seeking to reform its structures and processes to get a better return on investment. This means introducing change now in order to have flexible, deployable forces, and the right mix of capabilities at hand in ten years’ time.


III. Greater flexibility with partners

Chicago will be an opportunity for Allies to deepen existing relations and broaden its networks of partnerships. The summit will therefore give a new impetus to partnerships, highlighting their integral role in NATO’s peace support and crisis-management operations and overall political agenda.

Heads of state and government will also focus on engaging other organisations in addressing global challenges.