News and Analysis

Article 4 Triggered: NATO Nations In Russia’s Shadow Call For Emergency Planning Session
A picture taken on February 24, 2022 shows (from Up, L) US President Joe Biden, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President of the European Council Charles Michel, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Prime Minister Mario Draghi and French President Emmanuel Macron during a video-conference of G7 leaders on Ukraine at the Elysee Palace in Paris. - Russia has launched an invasion of Ukraine in the early hours of February 24, 2022, defying Western outrage and global appeals not to launch a war. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Several smaller NATO nations have triggered Article 4 to launch emergency consultations with other member nations following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

According to a number of reports, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have called for the consultation, apparently concerned that the integrity of their own borders could be at risk if Russia’s invasion persists or expands into the surrounding territories.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas tweeted her remarks on the issue: “I convened an urgent government meeting this morning. The Estonian Government decided to trigger @NATO consultations under Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, in cooperation with other Allies including Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. There’s a threat to the entire free world, as 🇷🇺 has launched a full-scale attack against #Ukraine – a sovereign European country. NATO consultations on strengthening the security of Allies must be initiated to implement additional measures for ensuring the defence of Allies.”

Latvia’s Prime Minister released a concurrent statement, saying, “Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an unacceptable attack on its sovereignty, democracy and society. We are in close contact with our partners in the EU and NATO for further action, we request to start consultations on NATO Article 4. Our services are working in an enhanced mode. Let us be vigilant and united.”

Article 4 reads: “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.”

By the time the alliance came together to meet, several other member nations had joined the call for consultation under Article 4.

Article 4 has been triggered a number of times since the Alliance’s inception in 1949, notably by Poland after Russia’s 2014 invasion into Ukraine. According to CNN, Turkey has also invoked Article 4 several times: “once in 2015 to inform the alliance of its response to terrorist attacks in the country; twice in 2012 after a Turkish warplane was shot down in northern Syria and after Turkish civilians were killed by Syrian shelling; and in 2003 when it asked for alliance help to protect its population from any spillover from the war in neighboring Iraq.”

Following the meeting, the U.S. Mission to NATO tweeted the following assessment: “Today, we have held consultations under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty. We have decided, in line with our defensive planning to protect all Allies, to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defence across the Alliance. Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory.”

It is important to note the distinction between Article 4 — which can be triggered when one or more member nations feel that their territorial integrity is at risk — and Article 5, the assurance that an attack on one NATO member nation will be treated as an attack on all member nations. Article 5 will not be triggered as long as Russia’s invasion stays within Ukraine’s borders, because Ukraine is not a member nation.

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