NATO Starts the Countdown to Chicago

Today, at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, I was fortunate enough to sample a taste of Chicago -- from pizza, to corned beef, popcorn, and cheesecake. I was joined by Illinois governor Pat Quinn, US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder, and Chicago's first lady Amy Rule to start the countdown to our NATO Summit in Chicago in May.

Like NATO, Chicago brings together many cultures. It is built upon diversity and determination. At our Summit, we are determined to deliver. We will make clear how we will continue supporting Afghanistan through transition as we agreed at our last Summit in Lisbon, and beyond. We will adopt a new "Smart Defence" strategy to ensure we have the military capabilities we need even in an age of austerity. And we will enhance our commitment to NATO's security partners around the globe.

These goals are all connected by a single thread: renewing the bond between the European and North American Allies.

Through this bond, the Euro-Atlantic region has enjoyed a period of historically unprecedented peace and stability. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the prospect of NATO membership helped spread freedom, democracy, and prosperity to former Eastern European adversaries who are now our Allies. And just last year, we saw this bond in action, when the Allies acted to protect civilians in Libya.

The transatlantic bond has been the cornerstone of our shared security for more than two generations. It will be preserved.

You may wonder why a former Danish Prime Minister would feel so passionate about this bond. Of my four grandchildren, two are Danish and two are Americans -- who also happen to live not far from Chicago. So I have a personal stake in transatlantic cooperation and security. And I have always regarded the North American and European Allies as belonging to an extended family of values.

I can think of no better city to host this Summit than Chicago -- a diverse city with strong, personal links to many of America's European Allies and partners. A city that draws inspiration from its people, and that in turn inspires others around the world.

This NATO Summit will be a family affair, and when times get tough, families come together to deal with common challenges. We will see European and North American Allies demonstrate their commitment to the shared values of our Alliance. And their shared determination to confront the most pressing security issues of our age. Terrorism. Energy security. Piracy. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the ballistic missiles that can deliver them.

And the decisions we make in Chicago will in many ways shape the future of NATO -- an Alliance that is constantly changing to meet the security challenges of today and tomorrow.