Obama bringing world leaders to Chicago for NATO, G-8 meetings
BY LYNN SWEET AND FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Reporters June 22, 2011 12:30PM
President Barack Obama speaks about Libya at the National Defense University in Washington, Monday, March 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Updated: September 24, 2011 12:20AM
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will bring world leaders to Chicago next May for a G-8 summit and a NATO meeting — gatherings Mayor Rahm Emanuel said will provide an international showcase for the city, despite financial and security headaches.
Obama will announce the meetings — where Afghanistan and the NATO alliance will be on the agenda — during a Wednesday night speech on his plan to draw down troops in Afghanistan.
An Obama White House administration official told the Chicago Sun-Times that the two distinct meetings will take place at the same time in the president’s adopted hometown, in locations to be determined. The 2012 summits in Chicago “will provide President Obama with opportunity to continue his leadership of our most important security alliance, to fulfill commitments made by allied leaders in Lisbon in November 2010, and to sustain our joint work to revitalize NATO to prepare it to effectively meet challenges of the 21st century,’’ the official said.
“They will review the progress in Afghanistan since the Lisbon NATO Summit, and discuss the next phase of our transition to full Afghan security in 2014.”
The meeting will run from May 15-22, 2012 and will be an opportunity for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former White House chief of staff, to show off the city to the world.
But the meetings will also bring massive security and financial challenges to the cash-strapped city. Similar gatherings of world leaders have attracted thousands of protestors. When Pittsburgh hosted the G-20 summit on global economies in September 2009, a public-private host committee partnership was created to help share the costs, much as for a political convention.
Sending the meetings to Chicago is a tangible demonstration of the Chicago White House clout. Chicago landed the G-8 and NATO by appointment, not through a competitive process.
A City Hall source said Emanuel talked to Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley about hosting the events in Chicago.
This is the first time Chicago has hosted either group — and the first U.S. city outside of Washington to host a NATO gathering. The last time and place a city hosted both gatherings was 1977 in London.
In Chicago Wednesday, Emanuel said the gathering of world leaders in Chicago will provide an unprecedented opportunity to get worldwide attention.
“From a city perspective, this will be an opportunity to showcase what is great about the greatest city in the greatest country,’’ he said. “It’s an opportunity for the City of Chicago economically, but also a message internationally about why Chicago is a city that’s on the move and, if you’re thinking of investing, Chicago is a place to invest.”
In 2002, Chicago played host to a two-day meeting of international business leaders known as the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) that attracted hundreds of protesters from across the country.
The meeting went smoothly, but not without an unprecedented show of force by police.
But that effort is expected to pale by comparison to the security needs of the 2012 NATO/G-8 meeting. Emanuel said the city will be ready.
“There’s no doubt about that. And one of the things I’m gonna be working on is raising the private resources necessary to supplement what we have to do,” the mayor said.
“While there is no doubt there will be security needs. This is also an opportunity for the city that is unprecedented from an economic standpoint and job-creation standpoint.”
The G-8 member countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The gathering also includes European Commission and African nation leaders.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has 28 member countries.