Attacking NATO where it has no defense
Russia’s successful subversion and partition of Ukraine can be replicated inside NATO countries without triggering the collective defense provisions of Article 5 of the Alliance’s treaty.
We commented on this in a recent piece titled “Against All Odds: Why Putin is Winning.” In that article, we noted a concern by Paul A. Goble, considered the dean of experts on nationalities in the post-Soviet sphere, who warned that Latvia could be Putin’s next target. Then we explained,
“With a near-fully modernized strategic nuclear arsenal to give teeth to his iron will, Putin is using a low-cost, high-impact weapon against which the West has built no effective defense: political and economic subversion.”
Article 5 of the NATO Treaty pertains exclusively to “armed attack.” Defense against political and economic subversion are not part of NATO’s collective defense structure, procedures, or strategy. The article continues:
“The KGB excelled at political and economic subversion, and Putin built his career practicing both. He ran hard-currency operations for the KGB in St. Petersburg before moving to the Kremlin to run then-president Boris Yeltsin’s Presidential Property Administration, from which he maneuvered to take control of the secret police section of the old KGB and, ultimately, taking power from Yeltsin himself. He then ensured that he would face no credible political rival.
“Externally, Putin has intervened in the internal politics of former Soviet-occupied countries, rewarding pliant dictators in Belarus and Central Asia, protecting isolated Armenia from its unfriendly neighbors, dismembering independent-minded small countries like the republic of Georgia, and apparently attempting to assassinate pro-western leaders like former Ukrainian prime minister and future president Viktor Yushchenko.
“Left permanently disfigured by the 2004 dioxin poisoning, Yushchenko was an arch-rival of Putin ally Viktor Yanukovych, whose ouster in a popular revolution earlier this year prompted Moscow’s seizure of the Crimea and subversion across eastern Ukraine.”
NATO collective defense pertains only to ‘armed attack’
The collective defense provision of NATO is defined in Article 5, which reads:
“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 recognised 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 underscores this point in a commentary on its official website:
“Article 5 is at the basis of a fundamental principle of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It provides that if a NATO Ally is the victim of an armed attack, each and every other member of the Alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the Ally attacked.
“This is the principle of collective defense.”
Is NATO prepared to be subverted and partitioned by Russian political and economic subversion? Has the Alliance – or the United States – given careful thought to the prospect, and what it would mean for the credibility of both NATO and the US?