Article 5 Ten Years On: Division or Unity?

9/11 Tribute in Light

From Simona Kordosova, the New AtlanticistTen years ago, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NATO invoked Article 5 for the first and only time in its history. Paradoxically, a treaty provision created to guarantee American assistance in case of a Soviet attack on Europe instead brought Europe to the aide of the United States in Afghanistan.

Since then, the credibility of Article 5 has been widely questioned in the face of severe defense budget cuts, rising public weariness of wars, projected reduction of the US force posture in Europe, and trembling transatlantic solidarity. Many NATO skeptics believe that Article 5 is no longer backed up by sufficient military capabilities and is being constantly undermined by lack of political will and internal cohesion. . . .

The 9/11 terrorist attacks and their immediate aftermath reunited the United States and Europe stronger than ever before. Yet, the past ten years proved that values and solidarity are not always sufficient unless backed up by adequate military strength and powerful leadership.

Therefore, it is now vitally important for NATO not to underestimate the challenges that arose in the past ten years. The Alliance must keep in mind that in order to preserve its deterrent capability and remain relevant in the international arena, it must remain credible. Only sufficient political will combined with military forces capable of defending the territory of the Alliance symbolizes a key to preserve the credibility of NATO’s security guarantees and the relevance of Article 5 commitment. Finally and most importantly, before sentencing NATO’s Article 5 to death, we should not forget what it has achieved: it was Article 5 that contributed for decades to the defense of the Allies against any form of Soviet aggression. It was Article 5 that has brought the nations of Central and Eastern Europe on the path to democracy and liberated them from the Russian sphere of influence. Lastly, it was the invocation of Article 5 that demonstrated the solidity of our shared values when they were most under attack.

Let’s not wait for another 9/11 before we come to realize this…

Simona Kordosova is an Assistant Director at the Atlantic Council’s Program on International Security

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