NATO chief meets with Biden, Pentagon chief; blasts Russia for aggression against NATO states, evokes Article 5 war clause
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on June 7, a week ahead of the military bloc’s summit in Brussels. The trip that brings Biden to NATO headquarters will be his first one outside the U.S.
The Pentagon’s transcript of his meet with Austin provides a clear indication of what the impending summit will dwell on and which actions – and against which nation – the meeting will chart for the upcoming years. Stoltenberg’s comments included:
“The global balance of power is shifting. We see the rise of China, we see Russia continue to be responsible for aggressive actions against NATO Allies, and our neighbors, in cyberspace, through hybrid means, and also the way they have used military force against the Ukraine, Georgia and other countries in that region.”
It is not certain which aggressive actions against NATO members Russia is accused of perpetrating, but based on his comments on Monday and in the recent past they include cyber attacks and reported poisoning of political opponents on the soil of NATO countries.
Since September 11, 2001 NATO has reacted to aggression against member states, actual and potential, by using Article 5 of its North Atlantic Treaty of 1949, which in part 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….[If] if such an armed attack occurs, each of them… 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….” That is, the bloc will collectively go to war against the alleged aggressor.
To follow up on that point, while addressing the Atlantic Council today as well – governments and defense secretaries come and go, pro-NATO Atlanticist think tanks go on forever – he stated the thirty-nation military bloc is increasingly treating cyber attacks, real or fancied, governmental or what is claimed to be so, as a central component of its collective military integration. He stated, for example, “There’s actually an ongoing exercise now where cyber is part of the exercise.”
The Atlantic Council’s synopsis of the event recalls that NATO considers it a matter of policy that a cyber attack is tantamount to any other form of military strike and will be treated accordingly. The NATO chief confirmed: “In a way it doesn’t matter whether it’s a kinetic attack or a cyberattack, we will assess as allies whether it meets the thresholds for triggering Article 5. It sends a message that we regard cyberattacks as seriously as any other attack.” Military retaliation, he added, could be a reciprocal or asymmetric cyber attack or an attack by “other means.”
In a press briefing he gave after meeting with Biden, Stoltenberg reprised the theme in stating, ” I thanked the President for his powerful commitment to the transatlantic bond, to Article Five, and his personal leadership on all these issues.”
It’s NATO’s responsibility to deny that the above accusation that Russia is guilty of aggression against NATO allies, including in the realm of cyber warfare, and that such attacks justify – in fact necessitate – history’s largest military alliance resorting to joint retaliation doesn’t mean what it appears to mean.
Not that anyone is going to hold the alliance to account if it does.