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Turkey is currently doing a lot of posturing against the EU in general and its neighbor Greece in particular. Assuming Turkey were to attack Greece, is NATO obliged to invoke Article 5 (Collective defence)? Is this something defined within the NATO rules?

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    Related (but different) question: If Turkey enters in war, are other NATO members obligated to assist her? – Bregalad Apr 18 '17 at 10:00
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    It really depends on who is declared the aggressor and that's usually decided politically, not realistically. Either way, without Greece and Turkey, there is no NATO. – Overmind Apr 18 '17 at 12:24
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    @Overmind : that's not a trivial thing to decide, as officially declared wars seem to be a thing of the past. Today it's more in the style of "We did not attack you! There are some activists fighting in your country claiming to be loyal to us, but we have nothing to do with them, they did what they did out of their own free initiative.". – vsz Apr 18 '17 at 14:12
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    @vsz "Oh, and, by the way, we're annexing the land that these completely independent activists just took over in your country because they voted that they wanted us to." – reirab Apr 18 '17 at 19:16
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    Note that there's no "invocation" requirement in the North Atlantic Treaty, once one party has been attacked in Europe or North America, the other parties are obligated to respond. Strictly speaking it doesn't place any obligations on NATO itself, since its not a signatory to the treaty. The organization is just the framework the parties put in place to help organize a collective defence and, if necessary, a collective response. – Ross Ridge Apr 18 '17 at 19:40
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The NATO treaty is surprisingly short and readable as far as treaties go. Here's (most of) 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 recognised 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.

Note that it doesn't make any distinction between NATO members and external parties. So if one member attacks another, the NATO members have the same obligations.
Also note that the language doesn't exactly specify what has to happen, other than "assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking [..] such action as it deems necessary".

So what exactly will happen? It's difficult to tell. It will depend on the exact situation, and speculating on dozens on scenarios is somewhat outside of the scope of the answer :-)


As a footnote, I'd like to point out that the chances of Turkey actually invading Greece in the near-future are virtually non-existent. Barking is not the same as biting.

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    In a real case, it will always be a controversed debate as who the "agressor" is. Even if a country wants to agress another it will do so with a huge propaganda machine making everyone believes it's the agressed one. So in practice, if 2 NATO members started to escalate a war, both will claim support from others based on that article. – Bregalad Apr 18 '17 at 10:03
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    So if Turkey were to attack Greece, it, as a member of NATO, would be obligated to "assist the Party or Parties so attacked" and have to resist itself? – TripeHound Apr 18 '17 at 11:37
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    @TripeHound It could decide that the "assistance" that it "deems necessary" is to invade Greece :-) The "invasion to help the people out"-excuse goes back at least to the Roman times, when Caesar claimed he was helping the Gauls out by invading them. – user11249 Apr 18 '17 at 11:58
  • Also note it specifically states "the security of the North Atlantic area". – m0skit0 Apr 18 '17 at 14:39
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    @HagenvonEitzen Short and readable is not the same as unambiguous or even internally consistent. Short and readable just means it's easier to notice where things are ambiguous ill defined or internally inconsistent. – DRF Apr 19 '17 at 8:00
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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 recognised 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.

I.e. NATO allies do not have to join a war if they don't consider the other party an attacker, if they render other forms of assistance, or if they don't deem it necessary.

The decisions are made by the North Atlantic Council which works as follows:

The 28 members of NATO have diplomatic missions to the organization through embassies in Belgium. The meetings of the NAC are chaired by the Secretary General and, when decisions have to be made, action is agreed upon on the basis of unanimity and common accord. There is no voting or decision by majority. Each nation [...] retains complete sovereignty and responsibility for its own decisions.

The "unanimity" part will prove to be a problem for the defender once one NATO ally attacks another. The "each nation retains sovereignity" part may prove to be a problem for the attacker, because it still allows other NATO parties to support the defender even if NAC doesn't decide to act.

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