NATO invokes Article 5
POSTED AT 5:49 AM EDT Thursday, September 13
Brussles, Belgium — In a strong show of support, Washington's NATO allies declared Wednesday that the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington can be considered an attack on the whole alliance if they were directed from abroad.
“An attack on one is an attack on all,” NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson said after the alliance's 19 ambassadors decided to invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter for the first time in the alliance's history.
The decision obliges America's allies to provide support for any military operation against those responsible if Tuesday's attacks were committed by foreigners, he said.
“The country that is attacked has got to make the decision and has got to be the one that asks for help,” Mr. Robertson said. “They have not reached that judgment as to who did it and why they did it.”
On Thursday, Australia said in might implement part of a military treaty with the United States that would define Tuesday's terrorist attack as an attack on Australia. Prime Minister John Howard said that would allow the country would support and, if necessary, participate in any U.S. retaliatory strike against those found to be responsible. A decision was expected later Thursday.
Shortly before the NATO announcement, Secretary of State Colin Powell said invoking the principle would not necessarily mean using NATO force against terrorists and their protectors. It could include anything from opening up air space and providing intelligence to contributing troops and equipment.
Mr. Powell telephoned the leaders of the United Nations, NATO and the European Union on Wednesday in search of support for a coordinated response to the attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.
He made two calls to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and also spoke with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and top officials from Germany, Canada and Italy, among other countries.
In a separate show of allied solidarity, the European Union pledged Wednesday to help U.S. authorities track down and “punish those responsible” for Tuesday's attacks.
At a special meeting, EU foreign ministers meeting asked “all Europeans to observe three minutes of silence” on Friday at 6 a.m. EDT.
They declared Friday a “day of mourning” in all 15 EU nations because the attacks were “not only on the United States, but against humanity itself and the values of freedom we all share.”
“There will be no safe haven for terrorists and their sponsors,” the EU ministers said in a statement. “The Union will work closely with the United States and all partners to combat international terrorism.”
NATO officials stressed there was no discussion of military intervention at this point.
“At the moment this is an act of solidarity,” Mr. Robertson said, adding that the declaration “in no way” binds the United States ``against taking action on its own.”
After receiving assurances from President George W. Bush Wednesday that NATO members would be consulted very closely, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder offered his “full solidarity” with the U.S. for a possible response.
“They were not only attacks on the people in the United States, our friends in America, but also against the entire civilized world, against our own freedom, against our own values, values which we share with the American people,” he said.
Calling Tuesday's attacks a threat to peace and freedom everywhere, he said, “We will not let these values be destroyed - in Europe, America or anywhere in the world.”
Mr. Schroeder's chief of staff , meanwhile, said German, French, British and Israeli secret services consider Saudi exile Osama bin Laden as the prime suspect behind the attacks.
“The way it was carried out, the choice of targets, the military approach, the highly professional preparation and the presumably large financial resources ... (all) mean there are many points that indicate we should look for the perpetrators among those around Osama bin Laden,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
He added that Germany expected the U.S. to launch strikes against whomever it determines carried out the attacks.
The notion of an attack against one ally being considered an attack against all dates back to the alliance's founding in 1949. Originally intended to be applied in case of a Cold War attack, Robertson said the principle “is no less valid” today.
In a statement, the NATO allies said “in the event of attacks ... each ally will assist (the U.S.) by taking such action as it deems necessary.
Accordingly, the United States' NATO allies stand ready to provide the assistance that may be required as a consequence of these acts of barbarism.”
Full text of NATO the official declaration issued by NATO's North Atlantic Council on Wednesday:
"On September 12th, the North Atlantic Council met again in response to the appalling attacks perpetrated yesterday against the United States.
"The Council agreed that if it is determined that this attack was directed from abroad against the United States, it shall be regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more of the Allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.
"The commitment to collective self-defense embodied in the Washington Treaty was first entered into in circumstances very different from those that exist now, but it remains no less valid and no less essential today, in a world subject to the scourge of international terrorism.
"When the Heads of State and Government of NATO met in Washington in 1999, they paid tribute to the success of the Alliance in ensuring the freedom of its members during the Cold War and in making possible a Europe that was whole and free.
"But they also recognized the existence of a wide variety of risks to security, some of them quite unlike those that had called NATO into existence. More specifically, they condemned terrorism as a serious threat to peace and stability and reaffirmed their determination to combat it in accordance with their commitments to one another, their international commitments and national legislation.
"Article 5 of the Washington Treaty stipulates that in the event of attacks falling within its purview, each Ally will assist the Party that has been attacked by taking such action as it deems necessary. Accordingly, the United States NATO Allies stand ready to provide the assistance that may be required as a consequence of these acts of barbarism."