NATO Summit: Rasmussen Sets Agenda for Summit

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NATO logoBy Laura Funk 
The Red Line Project

Posted: Sunday, May 20, 2012

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, President Obama and other heads of state gathered in McCormick Place Sunday morning to commence day one of the NATO summit.

Rasmussen started things off with a press conference, establishing three key priorities that will be covered: Keeping Afghanistan secure now and in the future, keeping NATO strong and capable in the 21st century, and keeping the global network of partners solid.

“We’re gathering here in Chicago for a crucial summit at a crucial time,” Rasmussen said.

Later in the day, Obama spoke with Rasmussen on summit plans to discuss the progress that has been made in expanding NATO’s defense capabilities and ensuring that every NATO member is involved and integrated in the mutual defense efforts. 

“We’re going to have an opportunity to talk about the partnerships that NATO has been able to set up with like-minded countries around the world,” Obama said. “And find ways that we can deepen and engage those partners to help to promote security and peace around the world.”

Sunday’s focus was on ensuring that the Alliance has the capabilities to deal with future security challenges, while tackling the economic challenges of the present, Rasmussen said.

A contract was signed today to acquire five unarmed drones which will let commanders identify threats, identify targets and see what is happening over the horizon at any time, he said during the closing press conference.  

“Smart Defense [providing greater security for citizens at a lower cost] is a vital principle,” Rasmussen said. “And we have agreed to make it the new way NATO does business.”

Today, a robust package of more than 20 multinational projects was approved to provide the capabilities needed, at an affordable price, he said.

“Our goal is NATO Forces 2020,” Rasmussen said, “an Alliance that deals with the economic challenges of today and is prepared for the security challenges of the future.” 

During the opening North Atlantic Conference meeting Obama spoke on the NATO alliance as the “bedrock of our common security, of freedom and of prosperity.” 

Times may have changed, but the fundamental reason for the alliance has not, Obama said. Nations are stronger and more prosperous when they stand together. 

“In good times and in bad, our alliance has endured; in fact, it has thrived because we share an unbreakable commitment to the freedom and security of our citizens,” he said.

This summit can reaffirm NATO’s Article V commitment to the collective defense and investment in the defense capabilities and new technologies that meet the security needs, Obama said.

“NATO is a force multiplier, and the initiatives we will endorse today will allow each of our nations to accomplish what none of us could achieve alone,” he said.

Monday, the second day of the two-day summit, will center on the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, Rasmussen said.

Obama welcomed Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Chicago Sunday morning and touched on the finalization of the Strategic Partnership Agreement – the United States and Afghanistan operating as partners, he said. It is designed to benefit each county’s citizens and also peace, security and stability in the region and around the world.

The summit will be largely devoted to ratifying a complete transition of security to Afghanistan by 2013, he said. With a focus shifted from combat to support, a post-2014 vision maintains an end in our combat role.

“The Afghan war as we understand it is over,” Obama said. “But our commitment to friendship and partnership with Afghanistan continues.”  

Karzai said Afghanistan reaffirmed its commitment to the transition process and the visions posed for the upcoming years.

“Afghanistan is fully aware of the task ahead and of what Afghanistan needs to do to reach the objectives that we all have of a stable, peaceful and self-reliant Afghanistan,” Karzai said. 

Together with ISAF partners, NATO leaders will meet with President Karzai, leaders of many countries in the region and beyond, and key international organizations, Rasmussen said.

“This will be a powerful demonstration of the commitment of the whole international community to the future of Afghanistan,” he said.

Continuing Monday, leaders will chart the next phase of the transition in Afghanistan, Obama said. 

“Just as we’ve sacrificed together for our common security, we will stand together, united, in our determination to complete this mission,” he said.

“NATO is truly a hub of a network of global security partners,” Obama said. “There is nothing else like it on Earth.

“I’m confident that the next two days are going to help to sustain and strengthen the strongest and most successful alliance that the world has ever known,” he said.

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