Following the recent ISIS attacks on Paris, French President Francois Hollande invoked the Mutual Defense provision of the European’s Union’s Treaty of Lisbon, rather than Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Charter. He was calling on France’s European allies to stand with France against the “Islamic” State.
The oddity of that choice was because the E. U. is basically a trade pact which has morphed into a quasi-governmental union; however, NATO has always been specifically a military mutual defense pact. Various reasons have been suggested as to why President Hollande chose the Treaty option, which had never been used before.
Might there have been some mistrust regarding Turkey, which is a member of NATO, but not of the E. U? In recent months, the relationship between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Vladimir Putin, of Russia, has been quite strained. Also, Istanbul’s recent downing of a Russian bomber, which allegedly invaded its air space, has certainly made a bad situation that much worse. Might the animosity between the two nations have stifled common sense?
Invoking the NATO Charter would actually be superfluous, however, since both the France and the U. S. are already engaged in northern Syria. France only joined after the November 13 attacks; but, the participation of other European nations would demonstrate unity against ISIS.
It is important to point out that calling on NATO—which has quite a similar membership to the E. U, plus the inclusion of the U. S. and Canada—would not be received well by Russia. President Vladimir Putin believes that the defense pact has been trying to break-up his relationship with the former Soviet republics, many of which have already joined NATO.
Lastly, some national security analysts believe that President Barack Obama might have tried to dissuade Hollande from calling-up NATO in order to keep the Syrian situation in somewhat of a gray area—between peace and all-out war. And, given the proximity of both Russian and Iranian forces, that certainly would be a valid concern.
To an extent, I believe that the actual rationale might be somewhat “all-of-the-above”. Following the Paris Attacks and the drowning of the Russian passenger airplane over the Sinai, Paris and Moscow seemed to be leaning toward working together, focused on forming a coalition to eradicate the “Islamic” State. But, Turkey’s downing of the Russian bomber seemed to have caused Putin to back away.
Many of the participants in the Syrian conflict will be represented in Paris this week for the Climate Change talks. A basic framework might be discussed in order for: the Europeans to consider how working together against ISIS in Syria might also reduce the refugee problem back home; Russia might form a closer relationship with the West, especially in reducing some of the sanctions that are devastating its economy; and the U. S. needs to form a closer relationship with Moscow in order to make peace a possibly, as well as for the political situation back home.
There are also some longer-term problems that will need to be addressed, perhaps under the auspices of the United Nations: Syrian President Bashar Assad needs to realize that he must go into exile, perhaps in Iran; a Kurdish homeland needs to be established; and regional Islamic countries, both in the Middle East and North Africa, need to find a way for Sunnis and Shias, as well as other peoples, to live together in peace.