Article 5 of the NATO treaty provides for collective defense in the event that a member country is attacked
As Russian military activity approaches the Ukrainian border with NATO, the possibility of a direct confrontation between Russia and the Alliance is growing. On March 13, it was reported that Russian planes fired rockets at the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security in Yavoriv, 20 kilometers from Ukraine’s border with Poland, a NATO member country.
The possibility of a Russian or Belarusian army unit crossing a border is also high. Mistakes happen in all military organizations, something that was clearly demonstrated days ago when India accidentally launched a missile towards Pakistan. Both nations have nuclear weapons and live in a situation of great tension. The possibility of retaliation from Pakistan was considerable, but, unlike in Ukraine, there is no open conflict to cause the situation to be misunderstood. If such an event had occurred between Polish and Russian forces in Ukraine, for example, it is unlikely that the Polish government would have considered the missile launch a mistake.
Concern about Russia’s intentions is greater in Eastern NATO nations than in Western ones. On March 15, the prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic risked a train trip to Ukraine to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in kyiv.
These countries risk being next on the list if Russian expansionism continues, as some expect. Vladimir Putin’s statements seem to threaten the Baltic States. It seems that the Russian president wants to restore Russia’s dominance over neighboring nations that was lost with the fall of the Soviet Union. These states have significant Russian ethnic minorities and have suffered from disorder in recent years.
The chances of a war escalation increase when we consider the circumstances of the rank-and-file soldiers on the ground, where they are cold and afraid. A single shot across a calm but tense border, or a subordinate who misunderstands a specific order and takes aggressive action, could start a confrontation that quickly escalates and exceeds the capabilities of local commanders.
Zelensky has repeatedly called for a NATO-enforced “no-fly zone” over Ukraine. But NATO leaders have concluded that this risks direct military confrontation between Russia and NATO forces, which could lead to rapid escalation.
The same seems to apply to another of Zelensky’s requests: the supply of planes to help the Ukrainian air force. But if NATO were to directly provide aircraft to Ukraine, Russia could consider these weapons to be offensive, not defensive, and take steps to stop supplying aircraft. This may involve attacks on the airfields where the planes land – for example, in Poland – before moving on to Ukraine.
There is a possibility that Zelensky has called for a NATO-sponsored no-fly zone precisely because he knows it would be impossible, which would allow him to start moving away from the idea of Ukraine joining NATO.
This could give him negotiating room to reach an agreement with Russia. But at the same time, in his speech to the United States Congress, he recalled the attacks on Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Zelensky warns of the consequences of NATO’s continued inaction.
NATO membership allows signatories to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty to solicit support from other members of the alliance. This article has only been used once in the history of NATO, by the United States, after the attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington DC.
But article 5 does not guarantee that all other NATO states have to send their armed forces to repel an attack, but rather that military action is one of the possible options of the alliance’s “collective defense” principle. But given the public statements from Westminster, the UK is expected to fulfill its obligation to fight a Russian attack. As UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid put it just a few days ago in an LBC interview: “If even one Russian gunner enters NATO territory there will be war with NATO.”
On February 25, the day after Russian forces invaded Ukraine, NATO heads of government met in Brussels. They made a statement condemning the invasion and pledging to help Ukraine. The alliance pledged to “continue to take all necessary measures and decisions to ensure the security and defense of all allies.” Consequently, NATO has deployed land and sea assets in its eastern regions and “activated NATO defense plans to prepare us to respond to a series of contingencies and secure the alliance’s territory.”
My research on NATO has included informal discussions with various officials from various Allied nations. This has led me to believe that some NATO countries further away from the conflict zone might be reluctant to send combat forces, even if Article 5 were activated. There is also the question of whether the political leaders of NATO would be prepared to carry out attacks on Russian soil, which would represent a significant escalation of the conflict and carry the additional risk that Russia would respond with an escalation of nuclear or chemical weapons.
Deterrence – whether conventional or nuclear – requires rational calculation on both sides. As I wrote previously, Putin’s rationale is different from that of Western leaders, and that is why this crisis and conflict are taking place. So far, Putin has not been deterred by NATO. On the contrary, he has threatened the Alliance with “consequences unseen in history.”
Meanwhile, any concessions Russia wins in peace talks are likely to lead to more demands. This is of particular concern to the easternmost NATO members.
What is not clear is whether NATO members furthest from the conflict see the threat in the same way. Unity of action is vital for NATO, not only now, but also in the coming weeks and months.
This article has been published in The Conversation
#happen #Putins #war #spreads #NATO #country