NATO has several options on how to respond to a stray missile which hit territory inside one of its member states, Poland, on Tuesday evening, British paper The Daily Telegraph reports.
The could range from the most drastic, including the establishment of a no-fly zone over western Ukraine, to the least severe, such as boosted arms supply to Ukraine.
At the time of writing it is not clear if the missile, which killed two people on the ground in Poland when it hit the village of Przedwodow, near the Ukraine border, was of Russian origin or not; US sources have said that it was a stray Ukrainian air defense missile fired in response to a Russian attack.
Patrick Tucker, an editor at Defense One, an analysis portal, told the daily that "It's often said that an attack on a NATO ally could trigger an Article 5 response, but NATO officials really stress that Article 5 is a conversation, not a machine," noting that Article 5 can take "all sorts of forms" and need not mean pushing a World War Three "button".
An option already discussed by Poland, which says it is likely to go down this route, is to invoke Article 4 of its founding treaty, The Telegraph says, and which allows member states to bring any issue of concern to discussions within the North Atlantic Council framework – a measure which has been taken half-a-dozen times since the alliance was founded in 1949.
Triggering Article 4, which Estonia and seven other member states did when Russia invaded Ukraine in February. is no guarantee of any collective significant step by NATO, but it does represent an intensification of discussions between members states, The Telegraph says, while the more aggressive response concerns Article 5.
Article 5 of the NATO treaty relies on the "attack on one member state (or more) is an attack on all" principle and means a full military response, though this outcome would depend hugely on establishing the facts of the matter regarding the missile strike and also Russia's response to the incident.
Article 5 would in any case be unlikely to be invoked until the POTUS, currently in Indonesia for the G20 summit, is back in US airspace, though the US, NATO's largest member state, has 10,000 personnel stationed in Poland as it is.
Alternative approaches could involve increased arms deliveries to Ukraine, strengthened air defenses along Ukraine's border with NATO states or even air defense within part of Ukraine's territory, Latvia's defense minister, said on Tuesday night
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would defend "every inch" of its territory in the wake of the strike, a line followed by Estonian Minister of Defense Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
The missile, while it killed two people, hit no military or critical civilian infrastructure and may have been of Ukrainian origin, fired in defense against an incoming Russian missile attack, which simply strayed over the border.
Russia has denied responsibility for the incident.
The original Daily Telegraph piece is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Allan Aksim
Source: Daily Telegraph