WASHINGTON--In advance of the NATO May summit in Chicago, President Barack Obama will meet with G-8 leaders at Camp David, his Maryland mountain retreat, on May 18 and 19. UPDATE National Security Council spokesman Caitlin Hayden confirmed that the Chicago summit--which had been planned for months--is cancelled.
The Sun-Times has a complete report on reaction to the White House yanking the G-8 from Chicago-Read the Sun-Times story HERE.
At 3 p.m. Chicago time, the White House sent out this statement: "In May, the United States looks forward to hosting the G-8 and NATO Summits. To facilitate a free-flowing discussion with our close G-8 partners, the President is inviting his fellow G-8 leaders to Camp David on May 18-19 for the G-8 Summit, which will address a broad range of economic, political and security issues."
"The President will then welcome NATO allies and partners to his hometown of Chicago for the NATO Summit on May 20-21, which will be the premier opportunity this year for the President to continue his efforts to strengthen NATO in order to ensure that the Atlantic Alliance remains the most successful alliance in history, while charting the way forward in Afghanistan," the White House said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel--who used his influence as former White House chief of staff under Obama to bring the summits to Chicago said in a statement, "We wish President Obama and the other leaders well at the G8 meeting at Camp David and look forward to hosting the NATO Summit in Chicago. Hosting the NATO Summit is a tremendous opportunity to showcase Chicago to the world and the world to Chicago and we are proud to host the 50 heads of state, foreign and defense ministers from the NATO and ISAF countries in our great city May 19-21."
Caitlin Hayden, a spokesman for the National Security Council said Emanuel was consulted about the switch. Emanuel spokesman Sarah Hamilton said the White House called late morning or early afternoon to inform the mayor about the decision.
Hayden said, "I'm not going to get into details on dates, etc. But, the President began to contemplate this idea a couple of weeks ago in discussions with his aides. He also speaks with Mayor Emmanuel regularly and the President consulted him on this decision."
Asked what changed--why Obama now wanted an "intimate" summit--instead of what he originally planned, Hayden said, "There's not a particular event or issue I can point to, but the President simply decided that he wanted to hold the G-8 in the more intimate setting with this small group of leaders who have a range of serious economic, political and security issues to discuss."
She also denied that the Russian elections played any role in the decision.
Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said, ""I think it is a wise move by the president as he continues to build relationships with heads of state, some of whom may be recently elected," Daley said, referring to Russia and France.
"Whenever heads of state can get together and be informal, more gets done to build relationships," Daley said. The informality of Camp David "breds a familiarity that can only help on the global stage."
The G-8 summit includes the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. All the nations except for Japan and Russia are also members of NATO.
The G-8 is taking place with one, possibly two new players and that was part into Obama's decision to seek a more informal setting, out of the spotlight of the international press.
Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia on Monday. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing a strong April challenge from Socialist presidential candidate François Hollande.
With no formal entertaining--and with logistical issues minimized, the secluded setting of Camp David changes the dynamic and lets Obama proceed more on his terms at his home.
The decision to have the G-8 in Chicago, piggybacked on the NATO meeting was made before the rise of the Occupy protest movement.
When former President George Bush hosted the last G-8 in the U.S., in 2004, it was outside a metropolitan area, at Sea Island, Georgia.