• 02 Nov. 2016
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Lord Robertson and the self-defence clause

“Your mind starts to whirl, first of all with the shock, secondly with sympathy and thirdly with what we were going to do about it.” But Lord Robertson, NATO’s 10th Secretary General, did not wait for answers to come to him once the second plane hit the Twin Towers. As an emergency meeting took place among NATO Ambassadors, work was already underway on how to react and one of the options was the invocation of Article 5 – NATO’s self-defence clause.

Early next morning, while speaking to US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, over the phone, Lord Robertson raised Article 5. He then defended the idea during a five and a half hour long meeting, followed by numerous phone calls to NATO capitals.

I insisted that Article 5 was relevant and was the ultimate act of solidarity with the people of the US. What had the self-defence clause meant if it was not valid at this dramatic moment of aggression?

On the evening of 12 September 2001, NATO invoked the principle of Article 5 for the first time in its history.

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 and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.”

In recognition for his services and his role during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the President of the United States, George Bush Junior, awarded Lord Robertson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.