NATO Secretary General announces Chicago summit dates

NATO’s forthcoming summit in Chicago will take place on May 20-21, 2012, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced during a visit to the United States.

“We'll have the next NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21 next year. This will be an important summit, following up on the decisions taken at Lisbon last year, but also breaking new ground," the Secretary General said on the margins of the United Nations general Assembly in New York. NATO’s last summit was held in Lisbon in November 2010.

The full Chicago summit agenda has not yet been finalised, but NATO’s Enduring Partnership with Afghanistan - agreed in Lisbon - will be a key point. NATO-trained Afghan forces have begun to take the lead responsibility for security in the country, and that transition is on track to be completed in 2014.

The Chicago summit will make clear that, even after that date, NATO “will not leave Afghanistan behind: we'll stay committed, with a focus on continuing to train and educate Afghan security forces, to continue to improve their capacity,” Rasmussen said.

In Lisbon, NATO heads of state and government agreed to create a system to defend NATO European territories and populations against ballistic-missile threats, and to begin talks on possible missile-defence cooperation with Russia.

In Chicago, “I hope and expect we'll be able to declare interim operational capability. This will be a significant step forward, because we have been discussing the development of a NATO-based missile defence system for many many years,” the Secretary General said, adding that he hopes to reach an agreement with Russia on missile-defence cooperation at the same time.

The summit is also expected to agree on new ways for NATO nations to prioritise, specialise and share multinational projects so that they can keep and improve their security capabilities, even in times of economic austerity – an approach known as “Smart Defence”.

And Rasmussen said that he hopes to break new ground in NATO’s partnership with other countries and organisations, especially in North Africa and the Middle East – a partnership which plays an important role in the NATO-led operation to protect the people of Libya.

“There are many positive lessons learnt from our Libya operations. We'd also like to broaden the perspective and further strengthen these partnerships,” the Secretary General said.

The Chicago meeting will be the first NATO summit in the United States since 1999 when the Alliance celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in Washington .