The United States will host the NATO Summit May 20 - 21, in Chicago, Illinois. President Obama looks forward to welcoming leaders from NATO member and partner nations to his hometown for the Summit of the world’s most successful Alliance. At the NATO Summit, leaders will discuss the next major phase of transition in Afghanistan, agree to further steps to ensure NATO has the capabilities necessary to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and further broaden and deepen its relationships with non-NATO partners.
NATO is a political and military alliance of 28 North American and European democracies that have joined together to defend their shared values. In addition to the United States, its other members include and Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The principle of collective defense is at the very heart of NATO and is enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which asserts that an attack on one is an attack on all. NATO invoked Article 5 of the Washington Treaty for the first time in its history following the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.
Founded in 1949, NATO played a unique role in maintaining stability and security in the trans-Atlantic area during the Cold War. Since the end of the Cold War, the Alliance has transformed itself to meet the new challenges of the new century. Today, NATO leads the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan, ensures a safe and secure environment in Kosovo through its KFOR mission, and contributes to international counter-piracy efforts off the Horn of Africa through Operation Ocean Shield. In 2011, NATO successfully carried out the UN-mandated mission in Libya to protect civilians, enforce a no-fly zone, and enforce a maritime arms embargo. The Alliance also completed its effective multi-year mission to provide training to the Iraqi National Security Forces at the end of last year. NATO also provides airlift and sealift support to the African Union (AU) missions in Somalia and Sudan and recently engaged in a number of humanitarian relief operations in recent years, including delivering over 100 tons of emergency supplies from Europe to the United States during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina crisis.
Recognizing that the security challenges allies face often emerge beyond Europe, NATO has become the hub of a global security network, establishing partnerships with over thirty countries. These ties provide opportunities for practical military cooperation and political dialogue. Partners have contributed significantly to NATO operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya.
How the Chicago Summit Came About
At NATO’s Lisbon Summit in November 2010, President Obama proposed to host the next NATO Summit in the United States, an offer which was welcomed by Allies. In his June 22, 2011, speech on Afghanistan the President announced publicly that “next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.” Given this unique opportunity to host world leaders, the President chose to show the world the best America has to offer in his hometown. Chicago is a diverse city, connected to the global economy, and has an increasing international profile. Chicago’s vibrant diaspora communities are eager to join the President in welcoming visiting world leaders.
About the Summit Location
On Sunday, May 20, 2012 NATO Leaders will gather for a working dinner at Soldier Field. Chicago’s McCormick Place will be the venue for Leader, Ministerial, and Senior Official events, as well as house the international press file center for the duration of the Summit on May 19-21.
About the Summit Spousal Program
First Lady Michelle Obama will host NATO Leaders’ Spouses on Sunday, May 20, 2012 at the Gary Comer Youth Center on the South Side of Chicago – an area where Mrs. Obama grew up. The Center offers young people extracurricular activities and support to help prepare them to graduate from high school, and continue on to pursue college and meaningful careers.