Let's say Turkey enters a war that is going on in the Middle East. It does not matter against whom. Are other NATO members in the obligation to assist her?

Normally they should have to, if Turkey is attacked. But what if the culprit of the initial aggression is debatable, which is the case for the vast majority of wars, especially modern wars, after all?

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    Note that nothing forces NATO members to actually send troops. A postcard saying "Be strong!" would be enough to conform to the treaty. Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 16:15
  • @MartinSchröder I believe the question is asking about a scenario such that Turkey decides to massively attack PKK after the PKK attacks Turkey first. Note that some NATO members such as US and UK support YPG, PKK's Syrian partner. US also indirectly supports PKK's anti-ISIS activities in Iraq.. Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 19:15
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    @DylanCzenski No, I asked about any scenario where Turkey was at wad, and I said clairly It does not matter against who.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 19:16
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    @Bregalad You can say "it does not matter against who" all you like, but it does matter.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 22:53
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    I'd think the crux would be the method of entry - attacked vs invading Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 15:25

2 Answers 2


NATO could, but doesn't have to.

Article 5 of the north-atlantic treaty reads:

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.

Technically only the west-most part of Turkey is part of Europe, so according to the original wording, technically the NATO defense clause wouldn't be invoked before the enemy crossed the Bosphorus. But with the accession of Greece and Turkey, the NATO area was clarified to include the whole territory of Turkey.

This article guarantees assistance when a member is attacked, not if a member attacks someone else. For a precedent case, consider the many wars the United States were involved in since founding of the NATO. While some NATO states assisted in these wars, there was just one case where the US obligated all of NATO to chip in: the war in Afghanistan which was justified by claiming 9-11 as an armed attack.

Also, "use of armed force" is just one possible form of action the other NATO partners could deem necessary. The articles 1 and 2 point out that a non-violent solution should always be preferred, so any peaceful approaches to the situation would be considered before planning a military counter-strike.

But what if the situation is complicated? People shoot at each other and nobody is sure who and what started it.

In that case Article 4 would likely be invoked:

The 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.

That means the North Atlantic Council would debate whether or not Turkey is threatened and what they could do to remedy the situation. Military intervention on behalf of Turkey is one option, but it is far from the only one. Which course of action to take would depend on the exact circumstances and the current geopolitical interests of the NATO partners. Some options NATO could take are:

  • Nothing, let them sort it out on their own
  • Send an angry letter to the aggressor
  • Impose sanctions on the aggressor
  • Provide Turkey with logistic support (money, weapons, intelligence, consultants etc.) but leave the actual fighting to the Turks.
  • Send troops to secure Turkey's borders
  • Retaliate by sending troops to attack the territory of the aggressor directly
  • So what happens if one NATO member attacks another (for instance, if Greece and Turkey went to war again?
    – Vikki
    Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 4:20
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    @Sean: NATO will consult. NATO is a system for collective defense, not collective security. The only latter system is the UN. Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 20:10

Article 6 is also relevant:

Article 6

For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:

  • on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France, on the territory of Turkey or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;

  • on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.

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