Opening remarks

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Heads of State and Government format

  • 20 May. 2012
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  • Last updated: 20 May. 2012 21:59

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are gathered here in Chicago to reaffirm our commitment to defend the freedom and security of all our citizens. We will continue to play our full part in building a world that is safer and more secure.

As we meet here, over 135,000 men and women are deployed on NATO-led operations.  Their daily actions have helped to save countless lives in areas of conflict, crisis, or catastrophe. 

Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with personnel from our partner nations, put their lives on the line every day. So that we can enjoy our lives free from fear and danger. 

We owe them all a deep debt of gratitude.  So it is right that we begin our Summit today with a tribute to them.

And it is a privilege to be joined this afternoon by representatives of the armed services of the 28 Allied nations.

In their honour, I would kindly ask you to stand up with me.

I want to thank you for all that you do for our Alliance. Our deepest sympathy to the families and loved ones of all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  And to those who have been injured in the course of our common effort for peace.  

I would ask you all now to join me in a moment of silence, to pay homage to all those who have fallen and to all those who have been injured in the service of our Alliance.

[Ceremony takes place]

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have gathered here in Chicago for our twenty-fifth NATO summit. And I can think of no better host city than Chicago.  Because like NATO, Chicago draws together many cultures.  It’s diverse, dynamic, and determined. 

Many hundreds of thousands of people from Chicago – past and present - came from NATO countries in Europe, and from Canada. So Chicago is the perfect place to renew our commitment to the vital bond between Europe and North America in the 21st century.  To reaffirm our determination to defend our freedom and security, and protect our shared values.  Because in a fast-changing world, we remain each other’s indispensable partners.

Together, we will chart the course for our future engagement in Afghanistan. We will make sure we complete transition to Afghan security lead by the end of 2014. And we will make clear our commitment to a long-term partnership with the Afghan people beyond 2014.  So that Afghanistan never again harbours terrorists that can attack us at home. And so that Afghans can look forward to a better future in a stable region.  

Together, we will keep NATO capable of responding to the security challenges of tomorrow.  Because no country, and no continent can deal with them alone.  We must embrace a renewed  culture of cooperation to provide more security at lesser cost for all our citizens.

And together, we will make our partnerships deeper, broader, and stronger.   Because today’s threats are no longer confined within national borders, our unique network of partners spans the globe – from Western Europe to East Asia, and from North Africa to the South Pacific.  

For over 60 years, NATO has kept us safe. And it has helped keep the world secure.

We know many of the challenges of the 21st century.  We also know that the future is unpredictable.  But together, we can face the future with confidence, whatever it holds. United by shared values and a shared purpose, we can find common solutions for common challenges.

So that the freedom, democracy and prosperity that our generation has enjoyed will be passed down to the next.

And it is my pleasure to now pass the floor to President Obama. Mr. President.


Thank you very much, President Obama, and let me take this opportunity to express, on behalf of all Allies, our gratitude to you and all federal, state, and local authorities for receiving us so warmly here in the magnificent city of Chicago.

And I would now like to thank the media for joining us this afternoon.