NATO’s Article 4: What it is and how it works,

Oliver Hegglin, geopolitical threat analyst

[…] In the North Atlantic Treaty, Article 5 essentially says that an attack against one member state is an attack against all. It is well known for being NATO’s collective defense clause. While this Article in itself is frequently misunderstood, as a military response is not necessarily mandated and Article 6 lays out the conditions under which Article 5 is valid, Article 4 is often missing when discussions concerning NATO responses occur.

In its entirety, 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.”

This can be understood to be a “preparatory phase” before a possible invocation of Article 5, in which consultations are held prior to determining how the alliance would jointly respond in Article 5, if at all, which requires members agree that an armed attack actually took place to begin with. Article 4 forces members to examine if a threat actually exists, and how best to counter it. The consultations themselves are held by the North Atlantic Council (NAC), NATO’s political decision-making body, and can occur at short notice, as all member states have representations at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels. By forcing all alliance members to discuss a topic as a matter of priority, Article 4 promotes diplomacy and has the ability to prevent escalation that would draw NATO into a conflict.

Would Poland have felt threatened in November and invoked Article 4, it would have been the eighth time consultations would have been called for, and the second time Poland would have invoked this Article. It has been invoked five times by Türkiye and once by a group of alliance members following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

The first time Article 4 was invoked in NATO’s history, was on February 10, 2003, when Türkiye expressed concern of a spill-over onto its territory as a result of the then-conflict in neighboring Iraq. In response, NATO decided to launch Operation Display Deterrence, in which NATO elements deployed to Turkey for 65 days from February to March. American and Dutch anti-aircraft systems, early-warning aircraft, and over 1,000 personnel tested NATO’s ability to respond to potential threats to an alliance member.

The second invocation on June 22, 2012, followed the shooting down of a Turkish jet by Syria, which NATO strongly condemned. In a statement following consultations, then-Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen indicated that Article 5 was not discussed and that he did not believe the ‘situation’ would escalate. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also regretted the incident, saying he would not permit existing tensions between Syria and Türkiye to develop into active combat. Läs artikel