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Instrument of Peace – NATO at 70 By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.




On the day that marks the official 70th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty (often termed the Washington Treaty) from which was founded the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) it was good to see the current and recently extended Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg call for greater support to the transatlantic alliance at a joint session of US Congress in Washington DC yesterday afternoon.

Describing NATO as the most successful military alliance in history, Stoltenberg’s carefully chosen words yesterday were, in my view, reflective of how the majority observe NATO as vital instrument for peace and thus, a more than adequate response to those that have voiced dissatisfaction in respect of the US continuing to carry such a high burden, as it does, of financial responsibility for maintaining European peace and security. 

While most agree that the burden of responsibility must be better shared amongst alliance members lets us first recall that it is the very success of NATO that has allowed Europe to live in peace since the alliance was founded on April 4th 1949.

It is NATO that has provided the counter to threat, that has provided the necessary resilience and more so, the underlying deterrent impact to those that would be our adversaries or who would wish to do us harm. It was NATO that provided the balance and deterrence to the Soviet threat and that played an important role deterring the prospect of communist aggression spreading its tentacles across the Continent of Europe. It is NATO that continues to play such an important role countering the Russian threat today and that has also provided the US with the military support, the intelligence, the reconnaissance required to test aggression wherever that may have appeared. It is NATO that is the rock that provides the western alliance with the ability to resist aggression wherever that rears its ugly head, to protect through a Charter that states:

‘The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments. They are determined to safeguard freedom, common heritage and civilisations of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area. They are resolved to unite the efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security. They therefore agree to this North Atlantic Treaty’

None of this hides the truth that Europe must do more to pay for the cost of peace. I may dislike the manner in with the US leadership has threatened NATO over the past two and a half years but I do not shy away from the reality that European members of NATO need to spend more on their individual and collective defence and that the high burden of cost for Europe’s defence must be shifted away from the US.

But for all that, I cannot and will not countenance the notion that the European Union should create a separate defence union and one that could that in the process of its formation could damage NATO. No good, in my view, would come from that and it would play into the hands of our would-be enemies. 

NATO has worked for all of us – for North America and all of its signatories in Europe. It may have imperfections, it may have sometimes been slow to react and adapt to change. But if that was so then all that I can say is that those lessons have been long ago learned and that today NATO is ready for the challenges that it will undoubtedly face in the future.

As the major economies in Continental Europe, I do believe that it’s I right to call upon France and Germany to take on a higher burden of responsibility and, given the important role that it plays in NATO, the UK as well. But in doing so France and Germany should do nothing that places obstacles to progress of NATO or weakens confidence in the organisation. They must align their defence through NATO as opposed to forming separate defence alliance in an attempt to create a separate and unwieldy EU political union for defence of those members who might wish to go down that route. NATO has provided what we all seek and the peace and stability of Europe is guaranteed through the NATO alliance. Long may that be so. There is no place in the hearts of the European people for an EU challenger to NATO supremacy and nothing must be done that would damage the values and future ability of the alliance to do the job that it set out to do when it was founded. 

Jens Stoltenberg’s address and which I am led to believe may be the first by a NATO head before a joint sitting of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, received high levels of applause and support from the many senior politicians present. They understand the real and underlying value of NATO and they will not let obstacles to progress get in the way or destroy NATO values.

Even so, Jens Stoltenberg was right not to ignore critics that have included US President Donald Trump by emphasising that NATO allies in Europe are now increasing spending on defence in order to shore up the alliance against (justifiable) criticism that some members may be using the alliance as a free-ride ticket to national defence. 

Somehow I disagree with those who believe that the largest challenge and threat that NATO faces is the diminishing appetite from the US President and maybe others in the White House administration to meet the security guarantee for Europe that the US and all twelve original members of what is now a 29 member country alliance signed up to. Of course I understand the ambivalence that has been expressed but my bigger fear is that NATO is weakened by those who might believe that Europe must stand alone away from America and that Europe should do its own thing in respect of its defence and security. If the EU was to go that way and spend precious resources that it does not have creating a potentially unmanageable political; beast of burden in order to provide defence and security across the European Continent I am bound to fear that the alliance as we know it would falter. I for one have no wish to see that.

The North Atlantic Treaty (Washington Treaty) which came into force on the 24th August 1949. It commits the signatories and those who subsequently joined to: 

Article 1

The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.

Article 2

The Parties will contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being. They will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between any or all of them.

Article 3

In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.

Article 4

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.

Article 5

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.

Article 6

For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:

  • on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France 2, on the territory of Turkey or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
  • on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.

Article 7     

This Treaty does not affect, and shall not be interpreted as affecting in any way the rights and obligations under the Charter of the Parties which are members of the United Nations, or the primary responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Article 8

Each Party declares that none of the international engagements now in force between it and any other of the Parties or any third State is in conflict with the provisions of this Treaty, and undertakes not to enter into any international engagement in conflict with this Treaty.

Article 9

The Parties hereby establish a Council, on which each of them shall be represented, to consider matters concerning the implementation of this Treaty. The Council shall be so organised as to be able to meet promptly at any time. The Council shall set up such subsidiary bodies as may be necessary; in particular it shall establish immediately a defence committee which shall recommend measures for the implementation of Articles 3 and 5.

Article 10

The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty. Any State so invited may become a Party to the Treaty by depositing its instrument of accession with the Government of the United States of America. The Government of the United States of America will inform each of the Parties of the deposit of each such instrument of accession.

Article 11

This Treaty shall be ratified and its provisions carried out by the Parties in accordance with their respective constitutional processes. The instruments of ratification shall be deposited as soon as possible with the Government of the United States of America, which will notify all the other signatories of each deposit. The Treaty shall enter into force between the States which have ratified it as soon as the ratifications of the majority of the signatories, including the ratifications of Belgium, Canada, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States, have been deposited and shall come into effect with respect to other States on the date of the deposit of their ratifications.

Article 12

After the Treaty has been in force for ten years, or at any time thereafter, the Parties shall, if any of them so requests, consult together for the purpose of reviewing the Treaty, having regard for the factors then affecting peace and security in the North Atlantic area, including the development of universal as well as regional arrangements under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Article 13

After the Treaty has been in force for twenty years, any Party may cease to be a Party one year after its notice of denunciation has been given to the Government of the United States of America, which will inform the Governments of the other Parties of the deposit of each notice of denunciation.

Article 14

This Treaty, of which the English and French texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the Government of the United States of America. Duly certified copies will be transmitted by that Government to the Governments of other signatories.

CHW (London – 4th April 2019)

Howard Wheeldon FRAeS 

Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,

M: +44 7710 779785       

Skype: chwheeldon



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