Camille Bélanger Mathew Z. Borden NATO and Canada

What is a NATO Summit?

Since the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, periodic NATO Summits have been crucial in strengthening the relationships between member countries and their leaders. The summits have also served a way to construct a coherent collective policy and security initiatives. Hosted by one NATO member state, the summits are not annual, but rather organized on an ad hoc basis, as required by new developments in security and politics. There have been 27 NATO Summits since the founding of the Alliance in 1949, occurring nearly every other year in the past decade. The most recent summit was held in July 2016 in Warsaw, Poland.  The upcoming NATO meeting will begin on Thursday, May 25th in Brussels, Belgium.


Each NATO summit is unique — in its thematic significance, location, and purpose. The summits are often held in a member country that is the focus of a NATO initiative, or of particular significance to that summit’s political aims. For example, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative was launched at a summit in Istanbul, Turkey. The 1999 NATO Summit was held in Washington in honour of the 50th anniversary of NATO, as the North Atlantic Treaty was signed in the same city. This year’s meeting follows this tradition; it will be held in the Brussels, Belgium, where the Alliance will inaugurate its new headquarters in the Belgian capital.


Thursday’s NATO meeting will differ from previous summits. Billed by NATO as only a “meeting,” it will be last only one day, and will avoid much of the long diplomatic and political discussions that are typical of full NATO summits. It nevertheless conserves elements of a traditional summit, gathering the head of states and governments of the NATO member countries. The meeting will also be used to introduce Montenegro into the Alliance, the first new member since Albania and Croatia joined the Alliance in 2009.

Photo: “U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter visits NATO Headquarters” (2015). Air Force Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz, via U.S. Department of Defense


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NATO Association of Canada
The NATO Association of Canada (NAOC) strives to educate and engage Canadians about NATO and its goals of peace, prosperity and security. The NAOC ensures Canada has an informed citizenry able to participate in discussions about its role on the world stage.