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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Remarks by the President at Opening NAC Meeting

McCormick Place
Chicago, Illinois

2:15 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General.  Anders, I want to take this opportunity on behalf of all of us to thank you for your outstanding leadership over these past three years.  And I want to begin by welcoming each and every one of you to my hometown.  I hope everybody has enjoyed themselves.  I understand some took a architectural boat tour, some have run along the lakefront.  Chicago is a great place, and we look forward to having you back again.

As Anders mentioned, so many people here in Chicago trace their roots back to NATO countries.  So it’s especially fitting that Chicago is the first American city outside of Washington, D.C. ever to host a NATO Summit.  Given the moment of silence we just observed, I also want to take the opportunity to salute Admiral Stavidris, General Abrial, General Allen, and all of our men and women who are serving in uniform on our behalf, and especially those who are serving today in Afghanistan.

For over 65 years, our alliance has been the bedrock of our common security, of freedom and of prosperity.  And though the times may have changed, the fundamental reason for our alliance has not.  Our nations are stronger and more prosperous when we 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.

We’ve seen this from the Cold War to the Balkans, from Afghanistan to Libya.  And that’s the spirit that we need to sustain here in Chicago, and with an alliance that is focused squarely on the future.

When we last met in Lisbon, we agreed to a bold plan of action to revitalize the alliance and ensure that we have the tools that are required to confront a changing and uncertain strategic landscape.  Here, at this session, we can reaffirm our Article V commitment to our collective defense and to investing in the defense capabilities and new technologies that meet our collective security needs.

In these difficult economic times, we can work together and pull our resources.  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.  We can all be proud that in Lisbon we committed, and now in Chicago we are delivering. 

Over the next two days, we’ll meet -- first as allies and then with President Karzai and our international partners -- to chart the next phase of the transition in Afghanistan.  Just as we’ve sacrificed together for our common security, we will stand together, united, in our determination to complete this mission. 

And finally, I look forward to our meeting with NATO’s neighbors and our partners around the world who have been so critical to NATO operations as in Afghanistan and Libya.  It will be another reminder that NATO is truly a hub of a network of global security partners.  There is nothing else like it on Earth. 

So, again, thank you, Mr. Secretary General, for your outstanding leadership.  Thank you to all my fellow leaders and friends who are here.  Welcome to Chicago.  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.

                                                                                     END                2:20 P.M. CDT