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What Are NATO's Articles 4 And 5?

  • Robert Coalson

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has vowed that NATO will "stand together with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity" amid heightened tensions with Syria.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has vowed that NATO will "stand together with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity" amid heightened tensions with Syria.

Following Syria's shooting down of a Turkish jet last week, Ankara on June 26 invoked Article 4 of the NATO founding treaty, which calls for consultations.

There had been some speculation that Ankara might ask NATO to invoke Article 5, which states that any armed attack against one member of the alliance is an attack against them all. But NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said this was not discussed.

What do NATO Articles 4 and 5 say?

Turkey on June 26 invoked Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which is the founding document of the NATO military alliance.

Under Article 4, any member state can convene a meeting of NATO members to "consult" when it feels its independence or security are threatened. In practice, it has rarely been used and sends a strong political symbol to the greater world that NATO is concerned about a particular situation.

Article 5 is known as the "one-for-all and all-for-one" article, the keystone of NATO as an organization. It states that an "armed attack" against one member is an attack against all and sets in motion the possibility of collective self-defense.

However, it only commits members to "assist the party or parties so attacked" and to take "such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force…." It does not automatically result in military action.

How would a decision on invoking them be made? Must all NATO members agree or is it a majority or consensus situation?

In theory, Articles 4 and 5 can only be invoked at the request of a NATO member. However, Article 5 has only been invoked once -- immediately following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

And former NATO Assistant Secretary-General Edgar Buckley, who was head of planning and operations from 1999 until 2003, has written that the decision to invoke the article was made collectively by member states in Brussels, apparently without a request from any individual member.

Article 5 was not invoked in other cases when it theoretically might have -- such as the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, the 1968 Pueblo incident, or the 1982 Falklands War -- because it was not requested.

All major NATO decisions are made by consensus, so any invocation of Article 5 would require the consent of all 28 members.

It is often heard that NATO security guarantees might apply more to some members than others. Turkey is a longtime NATO member, but has always been on the periphery. Is there pressure for NATO to respond positively in this case in order to demonstrate that all NATO members are equal?

Definitely. NATO has been struggling for years to redefine itself in the post-Cold War era and to enlarge without diluting its security guarantees. The issue came up as recently as the Chicago NATO summit last month.

Turkey invoked Article 4 in 2003 during the Iraq War and NATO responded by improving security along Turkey's border with Iraq. But the decision was difficult, says NATO Watch Director Ian Davis, because some alliance members opposed military action in Iraq in the first place.

"There was some tension within NATO about what should be done -- and what actually happened at that stage, NATO did undertake a number of precautionary measures on behalf of Turkey. They deployed AWAC surveillance aircraft and they placed missile defenses on Turkish territory -- Patriot batteries," Davis says.

"But just for a couple of months in the early part of 2003, but even doing that was quite controversial within NATO. So I think that some of that would be obviously reflected in the meeting that they had at NATO this morning."

In the present case, NATO issued a statement following the June 26 consultations saying that "the security of the alliance is indivisible." "We stand together with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity," the statement concluded. It also emphasized the alliance is following the situation "on the southeastern border of NATO" with "great concern."

What is the relationship between Article 5 and the UN Charter?

Article 5 states that all actions taken by the alliance must be immediately reported to the UN Security Council and that "such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security."

Moreover, Article 7 of the North Atlantic Treaty says the treaty in no way affects the rights and obligations members undertook in signing the UN Charter or the "primary responsibility" of the security council for maintaining peace.
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    Robert Coalson

    Robert Coalson covers Russia, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe. Send story tips to coalsonr@rferl.org

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