All for one and one for all: NATO’s key article to set limits on Putin

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg poses with the defense ministers of member countries during a meeting in Brussels (REUTERS/Johanna Geron/File) (JOHANNA GERON/)

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), founded on April 4, 1949, receives this Tuesday Finland, a country bordering Russia, which will become the 31st member state of the military alliance.

Sweden’s candidacy, also motivated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, will continue to wait due to the reluctance of Turkey and Hungary.

One for all

The heart of the NATO treaty is Article 5according to which, “an armed attack against one or more of its members in Europe or North America must be considered an attack against all”.

In this way, NATO not only can but has the obligation to intervene in the event of aggression against one of its countries.

If one of the allies invokes this article and the rest unanimously acknowledge that it was attacked, each country will take “the measures it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain security in the North Atlantic region.” .

This principle prevailed during the Cold War during which the rival block, the Warsaw pactmade up of the Soviet Union and the communist countries of Eastern Europe, followed a similar logic.

Article 5 does not include Ukraine, which is not a NATO country, but its neighbors such as Poland, Romania and Lithuania.

NATO exercises with soldiers from Denmark, led by the United States (via Reuters)
NATO exercises with soldiers from Denmark, led by the United States (via Reuters) (RITZAU SCANPIX /)

All for one

Article 5 was only activated once in NATO historydid USA after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

A few weeks after four planes flown by al Qaeda jihadists crashed in New York and Washington, this military alliance sent its AWACS planes to monitor the American skies to allow the US military to deploy its full force to respond to those attacks.

Apart from this single recourse to article 5, which led to the deployment of troops in Afghanistan, NATO intervened in other military operations, such as in 1995 in Bosnia Herzegovina, in 1999 in Kosovo or in 2011 in Libya.

The failure of the war in Afghanistan, which lasted almost 20 years and ended with the return to power of the Taliban, confirmed the willingness of the allies to focus on the defense of their territory in Europe and North America.

NATO exercises in Mahmudia, Romania (Alexandru Busca via REUTERS)
NATO exercises in Mahmudia, Romania (Alexandru Busca via REUTERS) (INQUAM PHOTOS /)

What is considered an attack?

This point is developed in article 6 of the 14 that make up the Washington Treaty.

The text reads: “For the purposes of Article 5, an armed attack against one or more of the Parties shall be considered to be the one that occurs:

-Against the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or in North America, against the French departments of Algeria, against the territory of Turkey or against the islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.

-Against the forces, ships or aircraft of any of the Parties that are in these territories, as well as in any other region of Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date of entry into force of the Treaty , or found in the Mediterranean Sea or in the North Atlantic region north of the Tropic of Cancer”.

In addition, in this case it would also be necessary to study article 4, which says: “The Parties shall consult when, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.”

Volodimir Zelensky, President of Ukraine, during a virtual meeting with NATO military chiefs (REUTERS/Yves Herman)
Volodimir Zelensky, President of Ukraine, during a virtual meeting with NATO military chiefs (REUTERS/Yves Herman) (YVES HERMAN/)

Support for Ukraine

When Russia invaded Ukraine, a NATO-friendly country, in February 2022, the organization refused to deploy troops or create a no-fly zone, but has delivered billions of dollars worth of weapons to kyiv.

In May, Finland and Sweden announce a historic bid to join the Alliance.

At the end of June, the organization approved a reinforcement of its presence on the eastern flank, with four new tactical groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, bringing its contingent of “highly prepared forces” to more than 300,000 soldiers.

“It is the most important reorganization of our collective defense since the Cold War”, says its secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

Ukraine demands accelerated accession to the Alliance in September after the annexation of four regions of the country by Moscow. But Stoltenberg speaks in February 2023 of a “long-term” entry.

In March, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifted the veto on Finland’s accession but continues to block Sweden.

(With information from AFP)

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Finland will formalize its entry into NATO today while Sweden awaits the approval of Turkey and Hungary