NATO ambassador: Use of Article 4 up to Poland, Lithuania or Latvia

Jüri Luik. PHOTO: Gert Tali

Even though the possibility of Poland evoking NATO Article 4 in connection with the Belarus border situation has been widely discussed in recent days, Estonian Ambassador to NATO Jüri Luik had not heard about relevant plans on Monday.

Are we looking at NATO Article 4 consultations or not?

This largely depends on countries that are currently the main targets of the Belarusian-Russian operation. According to the Washington Treaty, the article would have to be evoked by them.

If Article 5 requires consensus, every NATO member state can evoke Article 4.

It is difficult to predict what will happen. We currently have no information to suggest Poland, Lithuania or Latvia are about to take such a step.

You referred to the situation as the “Belarusian-Russian operation.” Does this include what is currently taking place around Ukraine?

The situation should be seen as a whole.

Firstly, it is definitely an attempt to demonstrate Belarusian and Russian hybrid capacity to the West and influence our actions that way. At the same time, we cannot overlook the troop buildup on the Ukrainian border.

The U.S. secretary of state has expressed concern over the potential motive of this buildup and warned Russia that aggressive moves against Ukraine are very dangerous.

The North Atlantic Council or all 30 NATO allies have made a similar statement using somewhat different phrasing. I see a clear connection there. But it is hard to say how the scenario will play out in the end.

Seeing as the Americans evoked Article 4 consultations during the war in Georgia, could the same be done over Ukraine?

It is possible in theory. Events in Belarus concern specific NATO allies and they are likely best positioned to evaluate the situation and evoke Article 4.

In the case of Ukraine or other partners, Article 4 would have to be evoked by a NATO member.

As far as I remember, the U.S. did not evoke Article 4 but simply proposed a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels back then. The meeting took place following the proposal of the secretary general.

What do Article 4 consultations facilitate?

It needs to follow a concrete prior agreement if we want results.

It usually signals that the country that evokes Article 4 is deeply concerned for its security that serves as an important signal for other allies.

Historically speaking, articles 4 and 5 were meant to function together. The idea was that Article 4 can be evoked by a single member state that feels threatened, while Article 5 cannot be evoked by any one country. The North Atlantic Council needs to be convened first.

The consensus today, especially in the conditions of hybrid warfare that falls below the Article 5 event horizon, is that Article 4 is evoked in case of hybrid crises that could escalate into Article 5 territory, depending on the situation.

The North Atlantic Council can decide in favor of crisis management measures, ramping up intelligence or analysis activities based on Article 4. Like the decision to dispatch a NATO crisis management hybrid support unit to Lithuania. Naturally, the symbolic aspect of the decision was the stronger motivator in that case.

As concerns the military dimension, we need to consider that Latvia, Lithuania and Poland already host NATO troops. Should military pressure build up on the border, it might prove necessary for NATO to take certain additional measures. We have the capacity.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today (yesterday – ed.). What might Kuleba have requested and what can NATO offer?

The NATO-Ukraine dialogue is mostly about offering crisis management measures. What these could be is being discussed. It is also not a crisis where notable developments are expected tomorrow or the day after that. Our main task is to send a strong enough signal to make sure nothing happens.

There are two aspects here. One is what NATO as an organization can do, the other aspect concerns member states and mutual cooperation. A lot of it is changeable.

The most important thing is the next U.S. weaponry shipment that concentrates on military capacity Ukraine lacks, such as high-end artillery radars. The U.S. has also deployed its military vessels in the Black Sea. The Brits sailed near Crimea recently to fly their flag.

I believe that the alliance and its members have reacted quite forcefully.

To what extent is the fact that the U.S. has lacked an ambassador in NATO for almost a year a hindrance?

USA is still the largest and most powerful member state. When their temporary charge d’affaires speaks, we know they speak for the U.S.

That said, a new ambassador would constitute a positive development as they are a direct representative of the president – it adds weight. But I would not say the current situation is in any way a hindrance.

How is the general work environment, especially considering the AUKUS agreement (a pact between Australia, the UK and USA that saw the former pull out of a deal to procure submarines from France – E. K.)?

Things have calmed down. There was a phase during which relations were strained, immediate after the signing of the AUKUS deal. But a host of mutual political steps to smooth relations and retain cooperation have been taken in the meantime, and we are rather looking ahead to the future.

The best example of this is the joint statement by President of France Emmanuel Macron and [U.S. President] Joe Biden that culminated in a meeting and a new statement. Various steps have been taken to clear the air in NATO.

The AUKUS subject matter also raised the question of the alliance’s role in developments in the Pacific, attitude towards China and matters that are on the table as part of the NATO strategic concept.

Of course, it is very important to specify cooperation with countries that share our values in the Pacific – Australia, South Korea, Japan – countries that make up the core of our Pacific partners. There are quite a few formats of cooperation.

I have always said that one form of cooperation that does not require a shared region and should not necessarily stay in the Euro-Atlantic dimension is cyber cooperation. Cyberattacks can start and hit anywhere.

The NATO Cyberdefense Center of Excellence in Tallinn is a good forum for such cooperation. South Korea and Japan have already dispatched their representatives, while Australia is set to follow suit in the near future.

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