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As NATO gets bigger, especially given the recent war in Ukraine, it would seem that it would get more and more difficult to maintain a diplomatic consensus, seeing as the more members there are, the more scope there is for disagreement.

How does NATO ensure that all members agree on its response to potentially military disputes?

Two examples I can think of is the possible threat of armed conflict between two members, or where one member has a beef with a non-member that some of the others don't share. (e.g. what if Austria invaded Hungary, but Turkey believed that it was provoked or justifiable)

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    Consensus, almost by definition, is not something that is "enforced." Obtained or secured perhaps, but not enforced.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 20:56
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    The big lurking conflict within NATO has been Greece vs Turkey, for decades now. The Turkish occupation of Cyprus doesn't help. We can see how NATO "solves" it: by ignoring it.
    – MSalters
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 15:09

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The actual promises in NATO Article 5 are rather weak. In case of

an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America

the other members were expected to

tak[e] 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.

First, note that it includes only defense, not offense. Second, note that not all members are expected to send troops to any contingency. A NATO member guarding the eastern flank might not be expected to provide forces on the southern flank, for instance, as long as it appears that the southern members can handle the problem.

During most of the Cold War, NATO was certain that West Germany would have to be reinforced in case of any conflict (the REFORGER exercises), so there were no big contingency plans for deployment of West German forces in the other direction.

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  • The fact that article 5 has been invoked exactly once since 1949 indicates how limited its provisions are.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 20:55

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