Secretary General Kicks Off NATO Summit in Chicago
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
CHICAGO, May 20, 2012 – NATO’s largest-ever summit opened here today to focus on keeping Afghanistan secure, ensuring NATO’s capability in the 21st century, and enhancing the alliance’s global network of partners, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
Representatives from 60 countries and organizations have gathered in this busy midwestern U.S. city for a meeting that NATO officials characterize as preparation for the alliance’s future.
President Barack Obama arrived this morning after hosting a daylong G-8 summit at Camp David in Maryland with leaders of Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is here to participate in discussions and attend North Atlantic Council sessions on 21st-century NATO capabilities, the long-term commitment of nations participating in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and NATO partnerships.
Panetta also will convene a working dinner of his fellow defense ministers, attend a signing ceremony for the purchase by 13 NATO allies of a ground surveillance system for future alliance operations, and join Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki for a visit to a first-of-its-kind joint Defense Department-VA hospital in north Chicago.
During a short preliminary briefing on the first day of the two-day international meeting, Rasmussen said discussions today will focus on security in an age of austerity.
“We will ensure that the alliance has the capabilities to deal with the security challenges of the future, even as we tackle the economic challenges of the present,” he told reporters at the summit’s media center at McCormick Place on the shore of Lake Michigan.
“We will adopt a concrete package of multinational projects which can provide greater security for all our citizens at lower cost, we will embrace a renewed culture of cooperation which we call ‘smart defense,’ and I expect we will take the first step to make our missile defense system operational,” he added.
Tomorrow, on the second day of the summit, Rasmussen said, “we will meet 13 of our most active partners around the globe, from Europe to Asia and the Middle East, because today’s security challenges are global and they need global solutions.”
NATO will continue to cooperate with partners from around the world, building on successes “so that we can provide more security for NATO, for our partners, and for the world,” he added.
Tomorrow also will be the day that summit participants shape the next stage of NATO’s engagement with Afghanistan. “We will complete transition of security responsibility to the Afghans by the end of 2014, but we will continue to support them for the long term,” Rasmussen said.
NATO officials and ISAF partners will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, leaders of many countries in the region and beyond, and key international organizations, the secretary general added.
“This will be a powerful demonstration of the commitment of the whole international community to the future of Afghanistan,” he said.
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