NATO Council Meet Today Upon Turkey's Request for Article 4

NATO Council Meet Today Upon Turkey's Request for Article 4 28 February, 2020

The North Atlantic Council, which includes the ambassadors of all 29 NATO Allies, will meet on Friday 28 February, following a request by Turkey to hold consultations under Article 4 of NATO’s founding Washington Treaty on the situation in Syria. Under article 4 of the Treaty, any Ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.

All NATO decisions are made by consensus, after discussion and consultation among member countries. Consultation between member states is therefore at the heart of NATO since Allies are able to exchange views and information and discuss issues prior to reaching agreement and taking action.

What Are NATO's Articles 4 And 5?

Following Syria's shooting down of a Turkish jet in June 22, 2012, Ankara invoked Article 4 of the NATO founding treaty, which calls for consultations on June 26.

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 former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said this was not discussed on that day.

What do NATO Articles 4 and 5 say?

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-defence. 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 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.


Issue 84