Consensus Decisionmaking in NATO: French Unilateralism and the Decision to Defend Turkey

By Lindstrom, Aaron D. | Chicago Journal of International Law, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Consensus Decisionmaking in NATO: French Unilateralism and the Decision to Defend Turkey


Lindstrom, Aaron D., Chicago Journal of International Law


On January 15, 2003, the United States formally requested that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ("NATO") begin planning to defend one of its members, Turkey, from any counterstrikes launched by Iraq in the event of a war with Iraq.1 France, Germany, and Belgium, concerned that such a move by NATO would send a message that war with Iraq was inevitable, resisted the request.2 In response, Turkey, the only member of NATO that shares a border with Iraq, pressed the issue by invoking Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty,3 which provides that "[t]he Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened."4 Despite Turkey's plea for collective defense, which is the purpose of NATO, France and the others continued to block any planning for almost a month.5 Because NATO operates under consensus decisionmaking, the votes of these three nations barred defensive preparation by NATO in support of Turkey.

NATO finally resolved the issue by moving the decision into its Defense Planning Committee ("DPC"), thereby circumventing France's veto.6 With France excluded, Germany and Belgium compromised and agreed to support the measure.7 As a result, NATO committed to provide some assets for the defense of Turkey without the full consensus of its members.

NATO's decision highlights a conflict between NATO's requirement of unanimity in decisionmaking and its obligation to provide collective defense. This development examines the decision and attempts to answer the following questions: Did NATO's decision without France's consent violate the North Atlantic Treaty? Did France violate the treaty by refusing to fulfill its obligation to defend a fellow NATO member? What does NATO's decision imply for the future of NATO?

I. DID BYPASSING FRANCE VIOLATE THE NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY?

NATO, as an alliance among sovereign nations, reaches decisions by the consensus of its members: bypassing France appears to violate established custom. Article 9 of the North Atlantic Treaty created a council consisting of representatives of every member nation.8 The North Atlantic Council, as it is called:

is the only body within the Alliance which derives its authority explicitly from the North Atlantic Treaty. . . . All member countries of NATO have an equal right to express their views round the Council table. Decisions are the expression of the collective will of member governments arrived at by common consent.9

While the wording of the treaty does not explicitly state a consensus or unanimity requirement, the status of the member nations as sovereign states implies it.10 Further, the practice has been consistently followed in the Council since 1949,11 arguably making the procedure a custom, which is another source of binding international law.12

While the preceding cursory examination of international law appears to condemn NATO's action, two arguments convincingly defend NATO's procedural device: first, France consented to NATO making some military decisions without its approval when it withdrew from NATO's military structure in 1966, and second, NATO's remaining military structure has the authority to make defensive plans through the DPC when there is unanimous consent within the DPC.13

A. THE IMPACT OF FRANCE'S WITHDRAWAL FROM NATO's MILITARY STRUCTURE

In early 1966, French president Charles de Gaulle withdrew France from NATO's military organization.14 As a consequence of its withdrawal, France relinquished its share of authority over that organization. In a successful attempt to keep France involved, the alliance responded by emphasizing both the political and military functions of NATO.15 While France did remain a party to the treaty, it decided to fulfill its obligations while retaining direct control over its military.16

France's partial break with NATO, however, also resulted in France's withdrawal from the DPC. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Consensus Decisionmaking in NATO: French Unilateralism and the Decision to Defend Turkey
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.