As Russia launched an attack on Ukraine this week, several neighboring countries and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have turned to Western partners for support, citing the group’s founding document in as part of their response to the crisis.
Early Thursday, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – all four of which share borders with Russia and three with Belarus, where Russian troops have been stationed – were among those who launched consultations under of Article 4, according to a press release from the Estonian government.
In the NATO statement condemning the Russian attack on Ukraine, the organization reported that North Atlantic Council consultations had taken place under the provisions of Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, or Washington Treaty.
“We have decided, in line with our defensive planning to protect all Allies, to take additional action to further strengthen deterrence and defense across the Alliance. Our actions and remain preventive, proportionate and not incremental” , said the NAC.
The declaration also mentioned Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.
“Our commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is unwavering,” officials said. “We are united to defend each other.”
These two articles will probably be widely mentioned in the coming days after the Russian attack on Ukraine, but have significant differences. Here’s a breakdown of what exactly these two articles entail.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Putin to immediately cease military actions against Ukraine. “The peace on our continent has been shattered. We now have in Europe a war of the magnitude and type that we thought was history.
What is the North Atlantic Treaty?
The North Atlantic Treaty, also known as the Washington Treaty, is the legal document that cemented the formation of NATO in 1949.
A total of 12 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, France and Italy, were among the founding members of the organization, a political and military alliance created to provide a counterweight in Europe to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Over the years another 18 members have joined, including Turkey, Lithuania and Estonia, and most recently North Macedonia in 2020. Ukraine is not a NATO member, although that it has indicated its intention to join in the future.
Of the articles contained in the treaty, Articles 4 and 5 are the most frequently cited, including in the current dispute involving Russia and Ukraine.
What is Article 4 of NATO?
Under Article 4 of the treaty, any member may request consultation of the North Atlantic Council when “the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened”. the article says. Invoking Article 4 does not necessarily mean action will be taken, but it intensifies communication between members.
Thusday, NATO said that Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia had all requested Article 4 talks.
In NATO’s statement regarding this latest invocation of Article 4, it announced that it would carry out “defensive planning” and other preparations in the event of further offensive military actions by Russia, but refrained from announcing a military intervention.
The section has only been invoked seven times, according to on the NATO website.
At the White House on Thursday, Harris called Russia’s attack on Ukraine unwarranted.
What is Article 5 of NATO?
The most serious section of the treaty is Article 5, known as the “commitment clause”. In this clause, each member of NATO undertakes to consider an armed attack against a member state, whether in Europe or North America, as an attack against the 30 members of the organization.
Article 5 has only been invoked once in NATO’s history, when the United States called for joint action after the September 11 attacks.
In their statement on the Russian attack on Ukraine, NAC officials said their commitment to Article 5 was “ironclad,” an important line in the sand considering Ukraine’s border nations.
Ukraine, the second largest by land in all of Europe, borders Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, all of which are NATO members. Belarus and Moldova, which border Ukraine to the north and south respectively, are not members of NATO.
Due to the geographical proximity of the conflict, NATO indicated that Article 5 would be enacted if Russia launched attacks against its member states, which would represent a dramatic escalation of the conflict.
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