On 4 April 1949, a committee which was chaired by US diplomat Theodore Achilles met at the new NATO headquarters( in Haren, Brussels, Belgium) to sign the North Atlantic Treaty, creating NATO. The Treaty was signed by :

The purpose of the treaty as well as the organization was to counter perceived Russian aggression with mandatory response if any of the allied NATO nations were attacked.

Most people view this as a positive having grown up in a post WWII, Cold War America. When asked, they will cite this history as reason. However, that is recent history. The turmoil in a post-coup Ukraine, the drawn out Syrian Civil war and European migrant crisis, the destabilization of Turkey (as well as the strategic importance of the Bosporus and Dardanelles) has also played out before in history. Now,  imagine adding a mandatory military response by treaty as Article 5 of the treaty demands. Oddly, the Crimean War was caused by such a treaty

We seem to be on the brink of a second Crimean War. The posturing leaders and mandatory alliances as well as the importance of Turkey were the prime factors in the build up to the First Crimean War, just as now.

How dangerous is this scenario? According to The Ecconomist:

Article 5 says that the response may include armed force, but it does not mandate it. All that NATO actually promises is to take “such action as it deems necessary” to restore and maintain security. That could be anything from nuclear war to a stiff diplomatic protest.

The first is geography: in places where an aggressor can quickly complete and consolidate an invasion, NATO’s options are very limited. The Baltics, for instance, occupy a thin flat strip of land which is all but indefensible. A Russian surprise attack could reach the coast within hours, and reversing a successful Russian invasion would be hard, even futile.

A second and related problem is dealing with escalation. Many in NATO would be happy to reinforce the Baltic states in a crisis, and even to use lethal force against “little green men”. But if Russia responded to NATO preparations by announcing a no-fly zone, backed by its formidable air defences and bristling arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, the stakes would quickly become dangerously high. The decision to act, or not, would be made not at NATO HQ in Brussels, but in Washington, DC. And, many eastern NATO members worry, it is hard to imagine an American president risking nuclear war to defend a tiny country half a world away.

“The decision to act, or not, would not be made NATO HQ in Brussels, but in Washington, DC. And, many eastern NATO members worry. It (seems hard to) imagine an American president risking nuclear war to defend a tiny country half a world away.”

In upcoming posts, we’ll review article 5 and the historical implications therein.

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