President Obama will host leaders from around the world in Chicago this weekend for an important diplomatic summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This Chicago Summit will be the first NATO summit on American soil in 13 years, and the first ever outside of Washington.
In addition to the opportunity to showcase one of our nation's great cities, our hosting of the summit in Chicago is a tangible symbol of the importance of NATO to the United States. It is also an opportunity to underscore to the American people the continued value of this alliance to security challenges we face today.
Indeed, NATO is vital to U.S. security. More than ever, the Alliance is the mechanism through which the United States confronts diverse and difficult threats to our security together with like-minded states who share our fundamental values of democracy, human rights and rule of law. Our experiences in the Cold War, in the Balkans and now in Afghanistan prove that our core interests are better protected by working together than by seeking to respond to threats alone as individual nations.
At NATO's last summit in Lisbon, Portugal, nearly 18 months ago, the allies unveiled a new Strategic Concept that defines NATO's focus in the 21st century. Building on the decisions taken in Lisbon, the allies have three objectives for the Chicago summit: Afghanistan, capabilities, and partnerships.
On Afghanistan, the ISAF coalition has made significant progress in preventing that country from serving as a safe haven for terrorists and ensuring that Afghans are able to provide for their own security. These are both necessary conditions to fulfill the president's goal to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida.
At Chicago, where Afghanistan is concerned, the United States anticipates three outcomes in particular: an agreement on an interim milestone in 2013 when ISAF's mission will shift from combat to support for the Afghan National Security Forces, the NSF; secondly, an agreement on the size, cost and sustainment of the ANSF beyond 2013; and, finally, a roadmap for NATO's post-2014 role in Afghanistan.
Regarding capabilities, NATO's ability to deploy an effective fighting force in the field makes the alliance unique. However, its capacity to deter and respond to security challenges will only be as successful as its forces are able, effective, interoperable and modern. In the current era of fiscal austerity, NATO can still maintain a strong defense, but doing so requires innovation, creativity and effectiveness. The United States is modernizing its presence in Europe at the same time that our NATO allies, and NATO as an institution, are engaged in similar steps. This is a clear opportunity for our European allies to take on greater responsibilities.
The United States continues to strongly urge those allies to meet the two percent benchmark for defense spending and to contribute politically, financially and operationally to the strength of the alliance. In addition to the total level of defense spending, we should also focus on how these limited resources are allocated and for what priorities. NATO has made progress towards pooling more national resources, which is exemplified through the capabilities package that the United States anticipates that leaders will endorse in Chicago. This package for Chicago includes missile defense, the Alliance Ground Surveillance program, and Baltic air policing.
Allies are, furthermore, expected to endorse the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review, the DDPR. The DDPR will identify the appropriate mix of nuclear, conventional and missile defense capabilities that NATO needs to meet 21st century security challenges, as well as reaffirm NATO's commitment to making consensus decisions on alliance posture issues.
Finally, the Chicago summit will highlight NATO's success in working with a growing number of partners around the world. Effective partnerships allow the alliance to extend its reach, act with greater legitimacy, share burdens, and benefit from the capabilities of others.
Allies will not make decisions on further enlargement of NATO in Chicago, but they will nonetheless send a clear, positive message to aspirant countries in support of their membership goals. The United States has been clear that NATO's door remains open to European democracies that are willing and able to assume their responsibilities and obligations of membership. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Georgia are all working closely with allies to meet NATO membership criteria.
In conclusion, the three summit priorities -- Afghanistan, capabilities, and partnerships " demonstrate how far NATO has evolved since its founding six decades ago. The reasons for its continued success are clear. The alliance has over the last 63 years proven to be an adaptable, durable and cost-effective provider of security.
When President Obama welcomes his counterparts to Chicago in just over a week, the United States will be prepared to work with our allies and partners to ensure that the alliance remains vibrant and capable for many more years to come.
Stay tuned to DipNote this week for more posts on the Chicago Summit. On Twitter, follow @USNATO and #Chicago2012 for Summit updates. All week, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder (@USAmbNATO) is answering your questions. Ask him using #AskIvo. You can watch a video preview with Ambassador Daalder of what President Obama and other leaders will be discussing in Chicago here.
For more information on the Summit, please see the Department of State's 2012 NATO Summit website.