In a year that we have commemorated a number of crucial battles that took place during the ‘Great War’ one hundred years ago during which many thousands of British, German, French, Australian, New Zealand, Indian and others who fought alongside us lost their lives in the so-called ‘war to end wars’ how tragic it is in 2016 to hear the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition Party, Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, effectively dismiss the policy of collective defence that Nato has provided to 28 member states for 67 years in order to enshrine peace, stability and harmony in Europe.
NATO was formed by agreement of its founding members on April 3rd 1949 and since then, no European member state has taken up arms against another. The NATO treaty embraces collective defence and never before have I heard any senior UK parliamentarian question the value and principles of collective defence that are at the heart of NATO.
Never in my lifetime did I imagine that I would hear someone to whom some believe that they might need to look up to in authority question the true values of NATO.
Asked several times in Solihull whether he would uphold the NATO Article 5 principle of ‘collective defence’ whereby ‘an attack on against one member of Nato is considered an attack against all’ he refused to provide any assurance that he would so do should he ever be elected as prime minister. Heaven forbid that that should ever occur.
Rather than provide any reassurance in regard of collective defence Mr. Corbyn said that he “would avoid the UK getting involved militarily by building up democratic relationships. What planet is this man living on? He stressed the importance of improving diplomacy with Russia but was not prepared to say that he would defend any of our NATO allies should they be attacked by Russia or anyone else. In doing so he is effectively condemning NATO and all that it has stood for since it was founded.
It would be all too easy to dismiss Jeremy Corbyn’s comments last evening on the basis that he would, even if as anticipated, he is re-elected as Labour leader by party members, surely never become prime minister.
But I am afraid that we cannot afford to take such a view. As long as Mr. Corbyn remains leader of Her Majesty’s principle opposition party he is, as far as I am concerned, a danger to peace and stability of Europe and all that we and NATO have worked so hard for since 1949.
What sort of message does what Corbyn said last evening to our NATO allies, to all those serving in our military today and that are deployed in conflict areas attempting to either bring about peace and stability or to provide additional support against the threats of others? What message does it send to the families of all those that have lost loved ones in conflict and where we have fought to secure peace and freedom? What sort of message does it send to the British public about the value of NATO and of what the creation of NATO in 1949 has achieved? Does he understand that we could probably never have had seventy-one years of unbroken peace in Europe without an agreement for collective defence?
While I may be shocked and appalled to hear such being uttered by a parliamentarian who clearly neither understands NATO, Geopolitics or indeed, others such as Russia that pose the threats to world peace, I believe that there is one important message that we can all learn from what Corbyn has implied. It is this:
All those empowered to so do whether they be in government, the military or elsewhere must ensure that they counter such dangerous views. They must work hard to get the message to the British public of what NATO is, what it does and what it has achieved; what it stands for and the absolute necessity that we and our NATO partners stand together for collective defence. Indeed, we must all redouble our efforts to sell the whole concept of defence to the public.
Let me repeat below what the parties to the NATO treaty signed up to:
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 the freedom, common heritage and civilisation 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 their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security. They therefore agree to this North Atlantic Treaty:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 1
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. (3)
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.
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.
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.
- The definition of the territories to which Article 5 applies was revised by Article 2 of the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the accession of Greece and Turkey signed on 22 October 1951.
- On January 16, 1963, the North Atlantic Council noted that insofar as the former Algerian Departments of France were concerned, the relevant clauses of this Treaty had become inapplicable as from July 3, 1962.
- The Treaty came into force on 24 August 1949, after the deposition of the ratifications of all signatory states.
CHW (London – 19th August 2016)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS