Message from President Obama

US President Barack Obama welcomes NATO to Chicago, his hometown. Here he describes how important the Alliance has been for our common security, our freedom and our prosperity for the past 63 years.

Welcome to Chicago. And to our NATO Allies and partners, welcome to the United States. For 63 years, our Alliance has been the bedrock of our common security, our freedom and our prosperity. Standing together, shoulder to shoulder, we rebuilt Europe from the ruins of war, prevailed in a long Cold War, welcomed new European democracies into our ranks and brought peace to the Balkans.

On this foundation of security, we've expanded trans-Atlantic trade and commerce into the largest economic relationship in the world, supporting jobs and opportunity for millions of our workers. Beyond our borders, forces and personnel from every one of our 28 nations and from 22 partner countries serve bravely in Afghanistan, the first NATO operation overseas and a mission that is vital to the security of that region and of all our nations.

This history of shared sacrifice reveals a truth that cannot be denied—our nations are stronger, safer and more prosperous when we stand together. For all our nations, NATO is a force multiplier that allows us to achieve things together that none of us can accomplish alone.

For the United States, there is no exaggerating the importance of this Alliance to our national security. With no other group of nations do we have such a close alignment of values, capabilities and goals. NATO is not simply the foundation of our trans-Atlantic relationships, it is the cornerstone of American engagement with the world.

Moreover, NATO is a catalyst for global action. The partnerships that NATO has forged with neighbours and nations around the world make our Alliance a pillar of international peace and security. We saw this in Libya, where the NATO-led mission to protect the Libyan people included contributions from our partners in Europe and those in the Middle East and North Africa. No other Alliance in the world has the capabilities our Alliance was able to offer. Today, we see the results in the lives of the Libyan people we saved and the opportunity Libyans now have to forge their own future.

This is the rich history and record of success that we can build on at our 25th NATO Summit, where we can continue the work we advanced two years ago in Lisbon of revitalising our Alliance with a new Strategic Concept to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Chicago is the perfect place to strengthen our Alliance of democratic nations, which is rooted in the friendships between our people and the values we share. It’s why I’m so proud that my hometown is the first American city ever to host a NATO Summit outside Washington, DC.

Chicago is a quintessentially American town, but it is also a hub of our transatlantic community. It has grown into one of the great cities of the world in no small measure because of the hard work and sacrifices of generations of immigrants, including many from NATO countries. Even now, roughly one in three Chicagoans trace their roots to NATO countries in Europe.

Here in Chicago, we can ensure that our Alliance is focused squarely on the future. We can chart the next phase of the transition in Afghanistan so that we complete the transition to Afghan responsibility for security in 2014, even as we forge a long-term partnership with the Afghan people.

We can continue to invest in the defence capabilities and new technologies that our security demands, even as we work together to pool our resources and share the burden in difficult economic times.

We can strengthen our valuable partnerships with European neighbours and nations around the world, even as we reaffirm the founding promise of Article 5 that remains at the heart of our Alliance—no NATO nation will have to fend on its own and all NATO Allies will stand by one another, now and always.

As we go forward, we’re mindful that progress does not come on its own. Whether our Alliance rises to the challenges of our time will depend on our will and resolve to sustain the strongest and most successful Alliance in history. For 63 extraordinary years our nations have summoned the will to give us the security, freedom and way of life we enjoy today. Here in Chicago, I’m confident we can summon the same resolve, not simply to defend our democracies, but to pass them safer and stronger to the generations that follow.