WASHINGTON--Defense Sec. Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium for meetings to prepare for the Chicago NATO Summit.
This is the last major gathering of NATO and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) before the May 20-21 NATO Summit at McCormick Place. Click HERE for Clinton's schedule of meetings, press conferences and bi-lateral sessions at NATO HQ.
"We are just one month away from our Chicago summit. So this is the time to make sure our preparations are on track as we enter the final stretch," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the start of the series of ministerial meetings. (Click below for NATO release on two-day meeting.)
More from NATO on the defense package to be discussed at the Chicago Summit:
"NATO has already done substantial work on developing the Alliance's capabilities in areas such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. At the forthcoming NATO Summit in Chicago on 20-21 May, heads of state and government will lay the foundations for the Alliance's future forces to 2020.
"In Chicago, we will take the next steps, by approving a specific set of commitments and measures, and embracing the new approach we call Smart Defence," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
"The Smart Defence concept encourages nations to maximise the efficiency of their defence spending by focusing on greater prioritisation, specialisation and multinational cooperation in their acquisition of modern equipment.
"Leaders at the Chicago Summit are expected to approve a package of defence measures which includes specific multinational projects and a strong commitment to making Smart Defence the new way the Alliance does business. It will also include measures to sustain and increase the links between the armed forces of different NATO nations.
"In Chicago, we will adopt a series of measures in the fields of education and training, exercises and technology, to make sure that our forces maintain the strong connections they have developed during our operations. We call it the Connected Forces Initiative," the Secretary General said.
NATO AFGHANISTAN GOAL
"NATO's firm goal is to complete the transition to full Afghan security responsibility by the end of 2014, within the timetable we all agreed. And NATO's firm intention is to continue supporting Afghanistan after 2014. Because our partnership with the Afghan people is for the long term."
18 Apr. 2012
NATO defence and foreign ministers prepare Chicago summit
The defence and foreign ministers of NATO's 28 member states gathered at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels on 18 April, 2012 for two days of talks to prepare the forthcoming NATO Summit in Chicago.
The Chicago Summit, on May 20-21, will take key decisions on the future of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, and on NATO's future capabilities and needs.
"We are just one month away from our Chicago summit. So this is the time to make sure our preparations are on track as we enter the final stretch," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the start of the series of ministerial meetings.
Defence ministers will discuss today the best way to ensure the Alliance can acquire and maintain the capabilities it needs, even in times of financial austerity. The Chicago Summit is expected to approve a package of measures based on the concept of Smart Defence, by which nations focus on greater prioritisation, specialisation and multinational cooperation in their acquisition of modern equipment.
The summit is also expected to move forward with the Connected Forces Initiative, which are a set of policies to make sure that Alliance forces are able to operate together through a renewed emphasis on training, exercises and compatible equipment.
"We will ensure that our Alliance has the modern, deployable and connected forces that we need for the next decade and beyond", said the Secretary General.
Together, defence and foreign ministers will discuss the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, ISAF. On 19 April, the foreign ministers of the 22 non-NATO countries which contribute to ISAF, will join the meeting to discuss how to make sure that the transition to full Afghan security responsibility succeeds, and how to offer continued support to the Afghans once it is completed.
"We will continue to support the Afghan security forces, also beyond 2014," the Secretary General said, adding the Alliance would also continue to support Afghanistan financially as part of the broader international effort.
"We must make sure we maintain the gains made with so much investment in lives and resources and even in tough times. Supporting the Afghan forces is a good deal in financial and political terms."
Also on 19 April, the 28 NATO foreign ministers will be joined by Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia for a session of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC). This year marks the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the NRC, making the meeting a good chance to take stock of the progress which has been made on practical cooperation.
The talks will focus on areas where NATO and Russia can strengthen cooperation such as counter-terrorism, Afghanistan, fighting piracy , maritime search and rescue and counter-narcotics.