Trump Is Right About Article 5

The art of being Trump lies in the leavening with taboo truth.

About Article 5, Trump is correct. Neither the US — nor any other NATO member — has any legal or moral obligation to enter into an armed conflict with Russia over the Baltic states. Which is probably why so many people are upset.

“At the drafting of Article 5 in the late 1940s, there was consensus on the principle of mutual assistance, but fundamental disagreement on the modalities of implementing this commitment.The European participants wanted to ensure that the United States would automatically come to their assistance should one of the signatories come under attack; the United States did not want to make such a pledge and obtained that this be reflected in the wording of Article 5.”

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

Using the language of NATO, fundamental disagreements about modalities continue to divide. Using the language of main street, US troops will not automatically defend the Baltic states.

Do Dangers Flow from Breaking this Taboo?

During the Cold War, the strategic importance of US bases in Britain combined with British commitment to a fighting retreat across continental European made this disagreement moot. The US could choose to fight sooner in West Germany or fight later in support of US bases in Britain but fight it would.

The Wall fell. Britain wound down towards a peacetime military. US bases closed. Berlin pushed towards hegemony though European Institutions. The European Union pushed towards unification and expansion beyond the lines agreed between Britain, France and Russia. NATO agreed to a special relationship with EU institutions hostile to Russia.

A dangerous time. Britain and Turkey turn away from the European Union. Russian military, diplomatic and information warfare capacities wax. US politics fracture. US forces are overstretched spread too thin across the globe.

NATOs ambitions have grown but its military capacity in Europe has waned. Mutual defence for the majority now relies mostly on reputation and bluster to deter. Perhaps the Russians simple missed this. If they did, the Trump caused immense damage. Then again, maybe the more complex and pertinent danger lies in people realising that their freedom depends as much on Putin’s forbearance as on US military power…