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What are Article 4 and Article 5 of the NATO treaty?

NATO has once again been thurst into the limelight as two Polish farmers are killed by a rocket. How does the alliance defend itself?

Polish PT-91 Twardy, German Leopard 2 and Italian Ariete tanks of NATO Enhanced Forward Presence battle groups attend live fire exercise, during Iron Spear 2022 military drill in Adazi, Latvia today.

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in April 1949 with all signatories committing to “safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law” and pledging “to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area”.

The alliance is the foremost military power in the world, expanding rapidly after the collapse of the Soviet Union to encompass many former allies of Russia.

What is NATO article 4?

Article 4 covers the mechanism in which the nations meet in reaction to a request from one of the signatory countries.

“The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened”.

Since the Alliance’s creation in 1949, Article 4 has been invoked a total of seven times - four times by Turkey, who requested NATO’s assistance for the first time in February 2003 ahead of the Iraq war.

This was the article invoked so as to organise the meeting on Tuesday night in the investigation of the killing of the Polish farmers. It has been announced that the strike was likely caused by Ukranian air defences and was not an attack by Russia.

What is NATO article 5?

Article 5 is arguably the most important part of NATO, being the cornerstone of all other parts of the alliance. This is the article which commits signatories to the collective defence of one another meaning if one is attacked then the others come to the nation in question’s defence.

“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

A significant part of this is the commitment of defence in “Europe or North America”. This means the alliance does not need to come to a defence in other theatres. Perhaps the most prominent examples of this was the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, a British holding in the South Atlantic ocean.