During President Trump’s recent visit to Europe, much was made of the fact that in a speech before NATO leaders, he did not explicitly affirm America’s commitment to NATO’s Article V.  This put much of European opinion on edge and was one of the things that prompted German Chancellor Merkel to brazenly hint that Europe might have to ‘go it alone.’

 

Everyone knows about Article V, right? It is repeated ad infinitum in press releases and news stories about NATO. “An attack on one member state is an attack on all.” The implication here is if, say, Russia overtly attacked even one of the tiny Baltic or other far off front-line states, the U.S. would respond as if Florida was invaded, and we’d be in a no-nonsense war with the Great Bear of the East.

 

I don’t think so. Like so many things in life, the actual understanding of Article V requires drilling down deeper into the details of the treaty. Here is the relevant part of Article V:

 

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-defense 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.”

 

 

He notes that Article 11 of the NATO treaty clarifies that any use of armed force by NATO parties in carrying out Article V must be in accord with their respective constitutional processes. 

 

As Mr. Fein writes, 

“For the United States, that means Congress must enact a declaration of war before the President may employ the armed forces to defend a NATO  Member from external aggression.  Article 5 is not and could not be made to be self-executing— even by amending NATO.  The United States Supreme Court held in Reid v. Covert (1956) that treaties are subordinate to the Constitution.  The Declare War Clause may not be circumvented by any treaty whatsoever.”

 

This means that taken as a whole and contrary to the popular understanding, the NATO treaty does not require the U.S. to automatically commence war if a member country is attacked. Congressional approval — both Senate the House of Representatives — would be needed. 

 

To which I’ll add that the verbiage in Article V itself gives tremendous wiggle room to avoid being dragged into a full-fledged war. To repeat Article V, it says NATO member states “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.”

 

The action “deemed necessary” can be almost anything and is something that is left up to the discretion of each member state. And ‘will assist’ should not be construed to mean that the U.S. will carry the bulk of the burden of the military action as was done in WWII and the Cold War. Consider this for example. The frontline NATO states are in Europe. Why then doesn’t the wealthy European powerhouses of Germany and France take the lead in defending them by stationing a serious military presence of their own there instead of expecting distant America to do it? 

 

So that brings us to how the NATO treaty is likely to be interpreted. It should be obvious that it makes a world of difference if Donald Trump, Rand Paul, or Ted Cruz is president as opposed to a globalist in the mold of John McCain, Hillary Clinton or any of the rest of the run-of-the-mill establishment politicians eyeing the high office. It is likely that the former group would be constrained in the call to war and would likely comply with the Constitution by seeking a formal congressional declaration. As for Sen. McCain and his fellow globalists, globalists, many of them can be expected to jump at any pretext to march off go to war.

 

To many observers, it seems that the likelihood of Russia commencing outright hostilities in Europe is extremely low, the Ukraine notwithstanding. So maybe it’s best to follow the old adage that the best time to fix a leaky roof is not when it’s raining but when the sun is shining. This means we should have a national discussion clarifying our commitment to NATO.  

 

Both as a candidate and now as president, Donald Trump has started the ball rolling. But more needs to follow. For example, some of the questions for the American people to decide on include: Is it really in America’s interest to continue to carry over 70 percent of the financial burden of NATO? Is our national security truly enhanced by promising our full military support to defend states like Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Montenegro and the like? Are we really serious about defending Islamic Turkey and if so, why? Is it wise to station U.S. troops in frontline NATO states whose presence serve more as a trip wire than anything else? 

 

Many benefits would flow if questions like there were openly debated about NATO. First, the American public would be enlightened as to just what the post-Cold War foreign affairs establishment wants to commit us to in Europe. Second, airing the issue can only help constrain the overreaching ambitions of the pro-NATO coalition, especially as it pertains to Article V. Also, it would soon dawn on the Europeans that America’s commitment to defend them is not unlimited as they now imagine it to be. Rather, the U.S. will assist Europe in fighting off aggression but we will not do it for them. All this would be healthy developments.

 

During President Trump’s recent visit to Europe, much was made of the fact that in a speech before NATO leaders, he did not explicitly affirm America’s commitment to NATO’s Article V.  This put much of European opinion on edge and was one of the things that prompted German Chancellor Merkel to brazenly hint that Europe might have to ‘go it alone.’

 

Everyone knows about Article V, right? It is repeated ad infinitum in press releases and news stories about NATO. “An attack on one member state is an attack on all.” The implication here is if, say, Russia overtly attacked even one of the tiny Baltic or other far off front-line states, the U.S. would respond as if Florida was invaded, and we’d be in a no-nonsense war with the Great Bear of the East.

 

I don’t think so. Like so many things in life, the actual understanding of Article V requires drilling down deeper into the details of the treaty. Here is the relevant part of Article V:

 

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-defense 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.”

 

 

He notes that Article 11 of the NATO treaty clarifies that any use of armed force by NATO parties in carrying out Article V must be in accord with their respective constitutional processes. 

 

As Mr. Fein writes, 

“For the United States, that means Congress must enact a declaration of war before the President may employ the armed forces to defend a NATO  Member from external aggression.  Article 5 is not and could not be made to be self-executing— even by amending NATO.  The United States Supreme Court held in Reid v. Covert (1956) that treaties are subordinate to the Constitution.  The Declare War Clause may not be circumvented by any treaty whatsoever.”

 

This means that taken as a whole and contrary to the popular understanding, the NATO treaty does not require the U.S. to automatically commence war if a member country is attacked. Congressional approval — both Senate the House of Representatives — would be needed. 

 

To which I’ll add that the verbiage in Article V itself gives tremendous wiggle room to avoid being dragged into a full-fledged war. To repeat Article V, it says NATO member states “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.”

 

The action “deemed necessary” can be almost anything and is something that is left up to the discretion of each member state. And ‘will assist’ should not be construed to mean that the U.S. will carry the bulk of the burden of the military action as was done in WWII and the Cold War. Consider this for example. The frontline NATO states are in Europe. Why then doesn’t the wealthy European powerhouses of Germany and France take the lead in defending them by stationing a serious military presence of their own there instead of expecting distant America to do it? 

 

So that brings us to how the NATO treaty is likely to be interpreted. It should be obvious that it makes a world of difference if Donald Trump, Rand Paul, or Ted Cruz is president as opposed to a globalist in the mold of John McCain, Hillary Clinton or any of the rest of the run-of-the-mill establishment politicians eyeing the high office. It is likely that the former group would be constrained in the call to war and would likely comply with the Constitution by seeking a formal congressional declaration. As for Sen. McCain and his fellow globalists, globalists, many of them can be expected to jump at any pretext to march off go to war.

 

To many observers, it seems that the likelihood of Russia commencing outright hostilities in Europe is extremely low, the Ukraine notwithstanding. So maybe it’s best to follow the old adage that the best time to fix a leaky roof is not when it’s raining but when the sun is shining. This means we should have a national discussion clarifying our commitment to NATO.  

 

Both as a candidate and now as president, Donald Trump has started the ball rolling. But more needs to follow. For example, some of the questions for the American people to decide on include: Is it really in America’s interest to continue to carry over 70 percent of the financial burden of NATO? Is our national security truly enhanced by promising our full military support to defend states like Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Montenegro and the like? Are we really serious about defending Islamic Turkey and if so, why? Is it wise to station U.S. troops in frontline NATO states whose presence serve more as a trip wire than anything else? 

 

Many benefits would flow if questions like there were openly debated about NATO. First, the American public would be enlightened as to just what the post-Cold War foreign affairs establishment wants to commit us to in Europe. Second, airing the issue can only help constrain the overreaching ambitions of the pro-NATO coalition, especially as it pertains to Article V. Also, it would soon dawn on the Europeans that America’s commitment to defend them is not unlimited as they now imagine it to be. Rather, the U.S. will assist Europe in fighting off aggression but we will not do it for them. All this would be healthy developments.

 



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