- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

NATO's members pledged support for the United States this week by invoking Article 5 of the alliance's treaty for the first time ever. The article provides for the mutual defense of any of its members under attack. The vote in favor of the article by all 19 NATO ambassadors in Brussels represents a significant shift in NATO policy. The quick move to rally America's defense is commendable. It is touching for Americans who are not only mourning the loss of thousands of lives, but are bereaved of the trust that the nation's security was inviolable.
From Germany, Defense Minister Rudolf Sharping called for NATO to implement a new approach that would no longer "only be preventative." For an ally that has not only been hesitant to involve its troops in armed conflict, but that has also been extremely critical of President Bush's national missile defense agenda, this is indeed a radical development. Even more revolutionary is that, for the first time, the largest international military force has agreed to defend a member state not just against threats from other countries but independent actors as well.
"Both the NATO treaty and the U.N. charter were based on the idea that attacks, if they came, would be undertaken by states, because those were supposed to be the only actors available," German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger told this page. "For the first time, there is a readiness, a declaration of intent by NATO and the U.N. Security Council that we have no choice but to consider this kind of activity as it occurred here in the United States on the same basis as we would an armed attack by a state."
Russia agreed in a meeting with NATO yesterday to help punish those responsible for the terrorist attacks, an unprecedented showing of solidarity by NATO's Cold War adversary. Even China said it would possibly take part in a response to the attack if the United Nations was involved.
There are stipulations attached to NATO's commitment, however. A military response would not formally be called upon until it is determined that the attackers came from outside the United States. The text of the NATO article also does not require all allies to automatically take military action. Each state is allowed to decide for itself which response would be appropriate, whether it be allowing the United States to use its air space, medical teams or weapons. NATO member states, for instance, have offered their Navy ships to be stationed close to New York Harbor to provide medical help.
NATO's quick response mirrors the immense outpouring of sympathy from people around the world in the wake of the attack. By pledging to put action behind those expressions of concern, NATO is making America's loss its own.

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