Could a war in Ukraine trigger its defense commitments? By Reuters

© Reuters. CAPTION: A NATO flag is seen at the alliance’s headquarters ahead of a meeting of NATO defense ministers, in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

by Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – NATO ambassadors held an emergency meeting on Wednesday after a missile attack killed two people in Poland and sparked international alarm that Russia’s war in Ukraine could spill over into neighboring countries.


NATO said an investigation was still ongoing, but the explosion at a grain facility in NATO member Poland, near the border with Ukraine, was likely caused by a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile and there was no indication that it was a deliberate attack or that Russia was preparing military action against Ukraine. its allies.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels that the attack was not Ukraine’s fault and that Russia was ultimately responsible for continuing its war against Ukraine.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland was still analyzing the possibility of launching an Article 4 procedure – a formal call for consultations among bloc members in the face of a security threat – but added that it appeared it might not be necessary.


Article 4 states that NATO countries will consult when, in the opinion of any of them, the territory, political independence or security of any of them is threatened.

According to Article 4, discussions in the North Atlantic Council – NATO’s main political decision-making body – could potentially lead to some form of joint decision or action.

Since the founding of NATO in 1949, Article 4 has been invoked seven times, most recently in February. 2022 when eight members sought consultation after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


If Russia were determined to have attacked the territory of a member state, the focus would shift to Article 5, the cornerstone of NATO’s founding treaty.

The alliance was founded in 1949 with the US military as its mainstay essentially to counter the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.

The treaty states that “the parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against all of them.”

“They agree that, in the event of such an armed attack, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized in Article 51, shall immediately, individually and in consultation with the other Contracting Parties, take those measures which he considers necessary, including the use of military force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic region,” it says.


Since Ukraine is not part of NATO, Russia’s invasion in February did not trigger Article 5, although the United States and other member states rushed to provide military and diplomatic assistance to Kyiv.

However, experts have long warned of a possible spread to neighboring countries on NATO’s eastern side, which could force the alliance to respond militarily.

Such actions by Russia, whether intentional or accidental, have increased the risk of the war escalating by drawing other countries directly into the conflict.


No. After an attack on a member state, the rest come together to decide whether they agree to treat it as an Article 5.

There is no time limit on how long such consultations could take, and experts say the language is flexible enough for each member to decide how far to go in responding to armed aggression against another.

Article 5 has been activated once before — on behalf of the United States, in response to Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked airplane attacks on New York and Washington.

WHAT HAS BIDEN SAID ABOUT Article 5 obligations?

While insisting that the United States has no interest in going to war with Russia, President Joe Biden has said since the beginning of Moscow’s invasion that Washington would uphold its Article 5 obligations to defend NATO partners.

“The United States is fully prepared with our NATO allies to defend every inch of NATO territory. Every inch,” Biden said at the White House in September.

He had stated earlier that there was “no doubt” that his administration would retain Article 5.

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