Germany's Alliances (II)

edit March 2013: I misleadingly called the relevant treaty "Treaty of Lisbon" in this blog post. It's accurate to call it Lisbon treaty, Treaty of the European Union or EU Vertrag. The relevant provision is in
Treaty of the European Union / Title 5 / Chapter 2 / Section 2 / Article 42.

I'm trying to keep track of my country's formal alliances and this is much more demanding than I'd have expected a few years ago.
I even forgot to mention the newest formal alliance of ours back in December.

Are you German? Did you get the news about the extended alliance responsibilities of Germany back in December? We committed ourselves to much greater collective defence responsibilities than ever before. Something like that has certainly sparked a great debate and produced much news in our newspapers and TV channels, right?
Well, I cannot remember that, but in fact I'm not just fooling around.

Our NATO collective defence was regionally limited, basically to Europe and North America. Attacks on the Falklands, for example, wouldn't have activated NATO obligations. NATO is only a collective defence north of the tropic of cancer (see article VI).

The WEU treaty has stronger wording about what to do in case of an attack, but it's limited to Europe (see article V).

Well, what was the extension of our collective defence commitments (and I'm really sorry that I'm so late on this, but it wasn't exactly well-reported elsewhere either)?

7. If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States.

Commitments and cooperation in this area shall be consistent with commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which, for those States which are members of it, remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation.

In other words: We would have a V-Fall, the situation of collective defence, if the Argentinians invaded the Falklands again. That would be an armed aggression against the territory of the treaty member UK and would activate our obligation to aid and assistance by all the means in our power.

I suspect for some reason that the German public is not sufficiently informed about this (albeit many may believe that the Falklands would be covered by NATO obligations without being able to tell how that would fit to the history of the Falklands War).

I have a feeling that we are committing too frivolously to military-related obligations. There was absolutely no security gained by expanding our commitments after 1999, neither in EU nor in NATO. Meanwhile, the German public is not appropriately informed about defence commitments because of our focus on economic matters.




  1. While it is correct, that the Lisbon Treaty also protects the oversea territory of its member states, I think the treaty does not include the British oversea territory (exception: Gibraltar), due to their special legal status (they're not part of the United Kingdom). The French and Dutch territories, however, are included.

  2. Hmm, interesting. The British would be able to declare their overseas territories as UK territory on day 1 of an invasion and any continued armed aggression would likely still activate the article, though.

    Also keep in mind how much NATO article V was bent in '01...

  3. I think it's a bit more difficult to cange the status of these islands, but unfortunately I'm not an expert in international law. But even without the Lisbon treaty, there would be some sort of support to the British (e.g. access to German and French military satellites). Also, I somehow doubt that the British would request a large contingent of non-British troops, ships or aircraft.

  4. I agree that its rather unlikely that the British would turn to Europe for military assistance. The French might be an exception under certain conditions, but in any case assistance would come by way of bilateral communication, completely ignoring theoretical European defence and foreign policy frameworks. And yes, while that does not negate potential legal obligations (if they do exist, as outlined in the commentary), reality is what matters.

    Also I think that the first country the British would turn to for discrete assistance are the US. And again, yes, I am aware of the official stance recently taken by the Obama administration. But when thinking along such lines as assistance in intelligence and deployment (aerial refuelling), I would argue that there is plenty of leverage to those words.

  5. Well, the U.S. has already disappointed the UK despite the supposed "special relationship" - AGAIN. They weren't really helpful in 1982 either.

    France has the right kind of fleet to support Britain in a hypothetical 2nd Falklands War, but the Netherlands, Spain and Italy have very useful naval assets as well.