The largest NATO summit in the organization's history was held in Chicago on May 20-21. Among the issues discussed were Afghanistan, the missile defence system, and relations with Allies and partners. Outside, civil society held a large demonstration, a Counter-Summit and several other events. IPB was represented by various member organisations and Board member Reiner Braun (Germany) who made several speeches and interviews.
The summit's main objective was to find an answer to this question: how can NATO maintain its capacities in difficult economic times where members are slashing military budgets?
- Concerning the strategy in Afghanistan, a handover of security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014 has been decided. NATO Allies have also planned a new post-2014 mission which aims at training, advising and assisting Afghan forces.
- NATO declares that the organization has an interim ballistic missile defense capability, which marks the first steps in the development of a NATO missile defense system.
- Adoption of the "smart defense" strategy: it aims at saving money by sharing equipment between Allies.
- Leaders reaffirmed their will to strengthen cooperation with the EU, Russia, and other partners.
Mobilization by the civil society
On Sunday, after a week of anti-war protests, a huge march for justice and reconciliation was organized. Thousands of people participated (organizers' estimates: 15,000).
At the end of the march, 45 veterans went, one by one, to the stage and spoke about their personal war experience. Then, they all returned their medals to NATO by throwing them toward McCormick Place.
Watch the video of the action here.
The march went peacefully until the end of the day, when black bloc activists confronted the police: 45 people were arrested, and several injured.
During the Counter Summit, 28 workshops were organized. The event was a model of collaboration as it brought together peace activists from different countries (the USA, Europe, Mexico, and Nepal), and was co-sponsored by more than 30 organizations. The movement had also excellent media coverage. But more importantly, it raised awareness among individuals about NATO, and the impacts of its activities on society.
At the end of the Counter Summit, the network released a statement that aims at promoting a new global peace and justice movement to oppose NATO, war, and militarism.
500 Occupy supporters participated, which has strengthened the anti-war movement in the USA by establishing new contacts among Occupy activists.
Members of National Nurses United urged the US government to reduce military spending in order to invest in health. To do so the nurses promoted a "Robin Hood tax" on bank's financial transactions. Occupy activists, unions, veterans, and Tom Morello (former Rage Against the Machine guitarist) participated in the demonstration.
On the one hand, the variety of movements participating in these actions shows that the gap between outrageous levels of military spending and reduced social programmes is no longer accepted. Activists demand that governments change their priorities from military to funding basic human needs.
Another objective was to show that the public does not agree with the decision of their governments: for instance, it does not support the war in Afghanistan, it doesn't want Russia to feel threatened by the development of a missile defense system.
For some, the diversity of the actions organized gave a feeling of disorganization to the movement due to a lack of unity between the different civil society movements.