Just a reminder about the North Atlantic Treaty

This is an excerpt from the treaty text:

Article 5

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 (...)

Article 6 

For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:
  1. on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France, on the territory of Turkey or on the islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
  2. 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.
The Article 5 part is unmodified from the original treaty, Article 6 is as modified by the accession protocol for the accession of Greece and Turkey. We can ignore the obsolete part about the "Algerian Departments of France". You can look those texts up here.

NATO is no Pacific alliance.
Hawaii could be nuked by North Korea, PRC or Russia and article 5 would not be relevant.
The same applies to any attack on Puerto Rico, U.S. or Canadian warships in the Pacific Ocean, Guam, New Caledonia or, as history has already shown, the Falklands.

This is of great importance!
There is no reason for Europeans to get involved in any Pacific arms race between the U.S./Japan/Taiwan/Australia on the one side and the PR China on the other side. 
The only European concerns about the PR China should be about the (still distant) scenario of a Sino-Russian alliance. This would then be first and foremost about air power, secondarily about land power (the capacity of transsiberian traffic lanes is still small) and arctic maritime sea lanes may be open now, but Russian arctic harbours are either small or well in range of land-based NATO tactical combat aviation. The PRC would find it difficult to sustain an army at war in Eastern Europe.
Chinese naval warfare against Europeans would likely be limited to few commerce raiders or commando actions such as blocking the Suez Canal with sunk ships. The only relevant Russian harbour for basing a Chinese expeditionary fleet is Murmansk. Again, it's well in range of NATO air and missile strikes and hardly useful as a main base for a PLAN expeditionary fleet. The distance between the PRC and Europe is simply too great for the PRC to be a major naval threat to Europeans.

There might be conflicts of interest about African resources between Europeans and Chinese, but such conflicts haven't even only reached the stage of great diplomatic efforts. A war in Africa would likely depend more on political allegiances, maritime (for Europeans: coastal) lines of communication and land-based air power than on modern battlefleets.

Long story short:
I don't see any need for Europeans to orient their naval forces for a fight against the PLAN, not even partially. There's no treaty obligation to fight in a Pacific War and there's nothing to be gained by joining any war in East Asia / the Pacific, ever.
There's little to no reason for the Chinese to go to war against European NATO (or EU) countries unless they go to war with China first.

I did make one assumption here that should be self-evident: Alliances serve a country's interests (security), not its ego. A violent clash of civilisations just for the sake of the clash in itself or a war just for the entertainment of people who want to see the world burn makes no sense.



  1. I agree just like we shouldn't get involved in European issues.

  2. I agree with this for the most part - but it ignores the possibility of a North Korean nuclear launch at the US mainland. Hawaii is not nearly as good of a deterrent against US action on the Korean peninsula as California or Texas and their ICBM development points in that direction.

    I agree with you that the 'least unlikely' NATO confrontation with a peer adversary is with Russia; but a nuclear miscalculation (a serious risk given the several close calls by the US and USSR) by the DRPK that involves attacking the US mainland will trigger Article V. In that case, it is likely - albeit not certain - that the PRC will honor its alliance with the DRPK.

    In such an event, European NATO will need to devote its considerable military strength in two directions: fighting a Second Korean War and hedging for the possibility that an opportunistic Russia tries to join in so as to seize territory in Eastern Europe.

    A long term diplomatic priority of European NATO (and possibly the EU given possible repercussions for global trade and Russian behavior) should thus be to aid the US in slowing down and attempting to deter the DRPK missile program. Else it could be drawn in to a war with the DRPK-PRC alliance.

    1. Let's face it; the war would be over within hours IF North Korea nukes Anchorage (and I'm certain it won't, I have written about that before).

    2. The DRPK government and military might well be annihilated in hours by a US retaliatory strike. But the war would not truly be over until the US secures the DRPK's borders. And that is where the danger lies. China may decide to prop up a fragment of the shattered DRPK regime along its border because of its desire to not have a land border with a US military ally. If the US does not accept this - and regards this fragment as the same enemy which nuked North America - it can drag all of NATO into a war with the PRC via Article V.

      I am not sure why you are certain that the DRPK will not miscalculate with its nukes. The DRPK surely cannot have better protection for its missiles than the USSR, nor will it possess superior warning systems against nukes (or against a massive bomber sortie or cruise missile launch which might accompany a first strike). So it will need an even more sensitive hair-trigger nuclear deterrent to deter any attempt by the US to disarm it. This raises the miscalculation risk regardless.

    3. You didn't quite understand me. The Norks would be annihilated. Literally.

    4. I'm not certain that the US would elect to destroy the entire population of the DRPK. Deterrence is satisfied by killing the Kims, the military, and the bulk of the civilian officials. But there are two good reasons for the US not to exterminate the country even if Los Angeles is nuked:

      1. The more nukes go off, the greater the environmental disruption. Military planners are presumably aware that nuclear war risks a famine-inducing series of 'years without a summer' that would destabilize the world and create additional military risks for the US. This encourages a focus on destroying only necessary targets - i.e. the government and military.

      2. All subjects of the DRPK are claimed by the Republic of Korea. The RoK would categorically prefer not to have its people in the North exterminated. The US is interested in maintaining a military alliance and good relations with Korea. These mutual interests are best served by avoiding civilian targets unless they are major centers of the government or military.

  3. Dirk has it right, Canada and the USA should withdraw from NATO as there is no benefit to a one-way defensive pact.

    In spite of all the current bluster, Europeans and North American countries enjoy fruitful trade and will continue to enjoy that trade with or without NATO.


    1. http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2009/05/utility-of-nato.html

    2. I disagree.

      Diplomacy is function of national governments; NATO was a useful tool, but NATO broke little ground that was not first broadly agreed to by the politicians and diplomats of constituent members first.


    3. It's not about diplomacy. It's about the entire narrative, how people perceive the world. To be allied means to be on the same page, to stand together against adversity rather than to face each other in conflict. There are many potential reasons for conflict between NA and EU.