'Today we are all Americans' - NATO allies pledge support
By ALAN FREEMAN
Thursday, September 13, 2001
LONDON -- NATO's decision to declare that terrorist attacks carried out against U.S. targets in New York and Washington can be considered an attack on the 19-member military alliance signals an unprecedented Western move against terrorism.
"The parties will take such action as [are deemed] necessary, including the use of armed force, in these circumstances," NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson told a news conference yesterday. "An attack on one is an attack on all."
The decision by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's North Atlantic Council marks the first time the alliance has decided to allow the principle of Article V of its basic treaty to be invoked since its founding 52 years ago.
The article was originally designed to protect vulnerable European member states against Soviet attack during the Cold War, and it is ironic that it is now being invoked to protect the world's only remaining superpower in its undeclared war against a still-unidentified terrorist enemy.
It also indicates that NATO is, in effect, extending its reach well beyond Europe and the North Atlantic region to wherever the terrorist attacks originated. NATO wasn't directly involved in the 1991 war in the Persian Gulf and has taken joint military action in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia using mandates that didn't refer to Article V.
The wording of the decision first requires the United States to prove that the terrorist attacks were directed from abroad, and it does not necessarily commit member states to specific joint military action. There was no discussion of actual military intervention at the meeting in Brussels, according to NATO officials.
"At the moment, this is an act of solidarity," Lord Robertson said. "It's a reaffirmation of a solemn treaty commitment which these countries have entered into."
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell welcomed the decision, although he made it clear during a news conference in Washington that Article V would be invoked only if the United States "makes a judgment about the nature of the attack and where the attack came from. It doesn't mean that they necessarily will participate in the attack, but it makes it easier to obtain support in the way of overflight rights and things of that nature."
When the United States retaliated in the past against Libya, Sudan and Afghanistan for terrorist actions, some NATO members were notably lukewarm and provided Washington no assistance.
Yesterday, though, was "a clear demonstration of alliance solidarity," said James Fergusson, deputy director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba.
Mr. Fergusson said invocation of Article V does not mean that the 18 allies have given the United States carte blanche to retaliate against whomever they feel is appropriate.
Yet the reaction by European nations to the latest terrorist attacks appear to mark an unprecedented consolidation of European support for the U.S. position.
It was not surprising to hear British Prime Minister Tony Blair saying his nation would stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the United States, but that same rhetoric could also be heard in Germany and even France yesterday.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called Tuesday's attacks a threat to peace and freedom everywhere. "We won't let these values be destroyed -- in Europe, U.S., or anywhere in the world," he said.
Peter Struck, parliamentary leader of Mr. Schroeder's governing Social Democratic Party, said that "today, we are all Americans."
That theme was echoed yesterday by the influential French daily, Le Monde, which published an editorial titled We Are All Americans.