Would all help defend if Estonia were attacked?
In a recent poll commissioned by The Financial Times, the majority of German, Italian and Spanish citizens would leave the Baltic states to their own devices if the latter countries were to be attacked by a foreign aggressor.
Fifty percent of Germans polled opposed national troops being sent to the defence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Only 26 percent would support such military action. This contradicts the Atlantic Alliance’s Article 5 mutual defence commitment, whereby NATO members have a legal obligation to come to each other’s defence.
Similarly skeptical about military support for the Baltic states were the Italians and Spanish polled, of whom less than 40 percent agreed to help defend the Baltic countries.
The staunchest to help defend were the French. Over 40 percent agreed to unconditional military support if asked. A majority of the British and Americans polled likewise indicated willingness to come to the defence of the Baltic states.
Concurrently a Harris poll indicated that 17% of Europeans consider Russia to be the most dangerous state in terms of international security. This is up from 4% prior to Russia invading Georgia. Previously Russia ranked well behind the US, Iraq, Iran. China ranked at 22%. Even in the US, 17% of respondents indicated Russia to be the leading danger to world peace up 2% from the month previous.
Observers say that in spite of the skepticism of Europeans – their reluctance to fulfill NATO obligations – governments have always made decisions about entering a military conflict independent of popular opinion. In fact public attitudes have mostly been against military action.
The stark picture of Russia bulldozing over Georgia may also taint the opinion polls. Observers point out that Georgia is not Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania, all NATO members, contributors to NATO missions.
In essence, the failure to fulfill NATO’s Article 5 means the disbandment of the Atlantic Alliance. Russia fully recognizes this and consequently vehemently opposes Georgia’s and Ukraine’s accession.
One must keep in mind that Article 5 does not address domestic conflicts. A NATO member must not expect assistance from NATO allies in curbing or controlling domestic revolts, uprisings, and insurgencies. Experts have indicated the ease with which Moscow can provoke public conflicts in neighbouring countries, providing it with an excuse to militarily intervene in protection of Russian citizens.
It’s an option that is openly discussed in Russia. Estonia would face this situation with her own military resources.
Our NATO allies (30)