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What is Article 5 of the NATO charter?

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Article 5 of the NATO Charter is commonly referred to as the “collective defense” clause. It’s really the teeth of the alliance itself, outlining how and why members of the alliance will come to the military aid of fellow members. In effect, Article 5 breaks down what NATO is willing to go to war over.

Put simply, Article 5 is the portion of the NATO charter that requires members to go to war in support of an ally when attacked.

According to NATO website, the most important elements of Article 5 to be aware of are:

  • Collective defense means that an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.
  • The principle of collective defense is enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.
  • NATO invoked Article 5 for the first time in its history after the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.
  • NATO has taken collective defense measures on several occasions, for instance in response to the situation in Syria and in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
  • NATO has standing forces on active duty that contribute to the Alliance’s collective defence efforts on a permanent basis.
nato article 5
British Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, speaks during the opening session of the committee’s chiefs of defense meeting in Warsaw, Poland (D0D photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)


Article 5 of the NATO Charter

“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.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.”

nato article 5
Senior Airman Evan Conde (left), a 19th Air Support Operations Squadron Tactical Air Support Party specialist, conveys his air support plan to German air force Maj. Nader Samadi, the Air Ground Operations Squadron commander, during a close air support exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)


What is NATO?

NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is a governmental and military alliance comprised of 30 member states in Europe and North America. Although established on 4 April 1949, NATO’s roots can be traced back to the Treaty of Dunkirk between France and the United Kingdom in 1947, which promised mutual assistance between the two states in the event of an attack by Germany or the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II.

NATO’s original aim was to offset the rapid spread of Soviet communism during the Cold War, but the alliance has broadened its goals and operations to match the complexity of the modern world. Today, the U.S. Defense Department describes NATO’s fundamental goal as safeguarding “the Allies’ freedom and security by political and military means.”

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Alex Hollings

Alex Hollings is a writer, dad, and Marine veteran.