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Is there any mechanism through which NATO member states can agree to remove a member state? If so, then what are the criteria through which a member state could be removed?

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3 Answers 3

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When the North Atlantic Treaty was signed first in 1949, no provision was included for removing a member state. Therefore I guess that there would be no legal pretense for removing a member state as long as this member state follows the duties included in the treaty.

However, any member country has the right to withdraw from NATO at any time. Therefore, if all but one country would have come to a common understanding, they could theoretically all withdraw at the same time and recreate a very similar treaty, effectively being equivalent to removing a member.

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  • There are provisions in NATO with respect to each nation needs to spend a percentage of GDP on Military (2%) by 2024 though I'm not sure what occurs if that goal is not met.
    – hszmv
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 16:59
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    @hszmv This is a good question by itself. You could ask that as a separate thing. Although the answer may be that the NATO members don't know either what will happen then. It seems to me that the NATO is working because members are similar minded. It's unclear what happens if this is not the case anymore. Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 21:27
  • Well if the OP is concerned about the same member that I am, we may soon learn the answer to that question.
    – hszmv
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 21:37
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    @hszmv Nothing (substantial) happens. This goal has not been met by several (most?) NATO members at any point over the last 2 or 3 decades. They were some complaints, mostly by the US about it but no other consequences.
    – quarague
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 8:41
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    @SilvassyPetrirov Joe C is wrong about that. The NAT predates the VCLT, and the VCLT is not retroactive.
    – phoog
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 20:43
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There is nothing in the North Atlantic Treaty that mentions suspension or expulsion from NATO.

In absence of this, I look at the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. I look in particular at Article 60, which covers the termination or suspension of a treaty in the event of its breach. In this case, all other parties would need to be unanimous in their decision to either suspend or expel the country that defaulted on its obligations. Any NATO member (apart from the country whose expulsion is being considered) would be able to veto such an expulsion.

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  • So that means, if Turkey (now) pushes back too hard on the question of Finland and/or Sweden, it may very well end up on the wrong end of the anecdotal male part. Commented May 15, 2022 at 3:19
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    @SilvassyPetrirov Only if there is a breach of contract. If you just want to remove one NATO member without that member having breached the treaty, you have to take other means. For example, pushing back or vetoing a possible ascension of Finland/Sweden would not be a breach of contract. Commented May 15, 2022 at 9:53
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    @SilvassyPetrirov Probably the last thing NATO wants right now is to alienate Turkey and to push it to align with Russia instead. Commented May 19, 2022 at 7:56
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    The Vienna Convention is explicitly not retroactive. It therefore does not apply to the North Atlantic Treaty.
    – phoog
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 20:42
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    @phoog: One might have to consider not only the original ratification of the NAT but also when it was modified to add new members. In any case since Turkey joined in 1952, also before VCLT, there's not much of a case to support applying it to Turkey.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 22:35
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Is there any mechanism through which NATO member states can agree to remove a member state?

If so, then what are the criteria through which a member state could be removed?

An Emory International Law Review article, The North Atlantic Treaty and It's Relationship to Other "Engagements" of Its Parties--A Commentary on Article 8 (2019), states that, "while the text is open, requiring exiting the Treaty by the Party in violation [of Article 8] may also be an option eventually."

There is no specific criteria, though "any international engagement in conflict with this Treaty".

The mechanism for removal is not spelled out directly; however, under Article 12, "the Parties shall, if any of them so requests, consult together for the purpose of reviewing the Treaty". An issue regarding a potential violation of Article 8 could be raised. After consultation, one of four possible actions could be taken:

  1. do nothing,

  2. ask the offending Party to remove the conflict,

  3. ask the offending Party to withdraw from the Treaty, or

  4. remove the offending Party from the Treaty.


Article 8

Each Party declares that none of the international engagements now in force between it and any other of the Parties or any third State is in conflict with the provisions of this Treaty, and undertakes not to enter into any international engagement in conflict with this Treaty.

As the article explains in Historical Background, The Birth of Article 8—A Short Overview,

Interestingly, though, the British proposal consisted of both the declaration on existing obligations and the undertaking for the future; the latter part was considered as having less importance, only being recommended for inclusion.

Subsequently, the latter part was dropped, but discussion continued on a proposal for "a provision on expulsion from the Alliance if a member State would change its political direction in contravention to the scope of the Pact."

After that proposal failed to garner support, the provision for future undertakings was restored.

Though it was understood that the clause on future undertakings not to establish conflicting engagements would not per se mean automatic expulsion, it is nevertheless remarkable that such a potential scope was associated with this additional provision.

Then under Commentary, "Engagements",

If interpreted within the context and the purpose of the whole Treaty, the term “engagements” encompasses any formal or informal, written or other, legally binding or non-binding commitments or undertakings, including those of political or economic nature, incompatible with the fulfilment of the legal obligations under the Treaty.

Under *In Conflict with this Treaty",

The North Atlantic Treaty is nevertheless silent on the legal consequences of such an act which shall be determined under the general rules of state responsibility under international law. Here, we shall recall one of the original intentions to include the undertaking in the text of the Treaty, namely, to substitute an expulsion provision. In this regard, while the text is open, requiring exiting the Treaty by the Party in violation may also be an option eventually.

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  • The authors of the article seem not to take into account the fact that the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties does not apply to the North Atlantic Treaty because the VCLT is not retroactive.
    – phoog
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 21:00
  • @phoog - Removed the reference.
    – Rick Smith
    Commented May 19, 2022 at 21:10

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