CRS — NATO’s Chicago Summit

May 17, 2012

NATO’s Chicago Summit (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

NATO’s 2012 summit of alliance heads of state and government is scheduled to take place in Chicago on May 20-21. U.S. and NATO officials have outlined what they expect to be the Summit’s three main agenda items:

  • Defining the next phase of formal transition in Afghanistan and shaping a longer term NATO commitment to the country after the planned end of combat operations by the end of 2014;
  • Securing commitments to maintain and develop the military capabilities necessary to meet NATO’s defense and security goals, including through a new “Smart Defense” initiative; and
  • Enhancing NATO’s partnerships with non-NATO member states.
  • Although NATO is not expected to issue membership invitations to any of the four countries currently seeking NATO membership, it could reaffirm their commitment to do so in the future.

Congress has played an important role in guiding U.S. policy toward NATO and shaping NATO’s post-Cold War evolution. Members of the 112 th Congress have expressed interest in each of the key agenda items to be discussed in Chicago. For example, proposed companion legislation in the House and Senate—The NATO Enhancement Act of 2012 (S. 2177 and H.R. 4243)—endorses NATO enlargement to the Balkans and Georgia, reaffirms NATO’s role as a nuclear alliance, and calls on the U.S. Administration to seek further allied contributions to a NATO territorial missile defense system, and to urge NATO allies to develop critical military capabilities.

In the run-up to and aftermath of the Chicago Summit, Congress may consider a range of issues relating to NATO’s current operations and activities and its longer term mission. These include questions pertaining to:

  • NATO’s commitment to Afghanistan, both during the ongoing transition away from a primary emphasis on combat and after the transition;
  • Allied conventional military capabilities and burden-sharing within the alliance;
  • Future NATO operations and allied military readiness;
  • NATO’s future as a nuclear alliance;
  • NATO’s relations with non-NATO member states and multilateral organizations; and
  • Prospects and conditions for future NATO enlargement.

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