Saturday, July 13, 2024

Hawaii is the only US state not covered by the NATO defense agreement


Sweden has been approved as NATO's newest member

WASHINGTON — Sweden became NATO's newest member earlier this month, joining 31 countries in the security alliance, including the United States.

Well, make that 49 of 50 United States.

Because, in a weirdness of geography and history, Hawaii is not technically covered by NATO.

If a foreign power attacked Hawaii—say, the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor or the Indo-Pacific Command headquarters northwest of Honolulu—NATO members would not be obligated to rise to the level of defense of the Aloha State.

“It's the strangest thing,” says David Santoro, president of the Pacific Forum think tank in Honolulu, adding that even most Hawaiians have no idea their state is technically moving away from the alliance.

“People tend to assume that Hawaii is part of the United States and therefore covered by NATO,” he says.

But he acknowledges that this information is in the name of the coalition. North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Hawaii, of course, is located in the Pacific Ocean, and unlike California, Colorado, or Alaska, the 50th state is not part of the continental United States that reaches the North Atlantic Ocean on its eastern shores.

“The argument for not including Hawaii is simply that it's not part of North America,” Santoro says.

The exception is provided for in the Washington Treaty, the document that created NATO in 1949, a decade before Hawaii became a state.

While Article 5 of the Treaty provides for collective self-defense in the event of a military attack on any member state, Article 6 limits the geographical scope of this.

Article 6 states that “an armed attack on one or more of the Parties shall be deemed to constitute an armed attack on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America.” It also states that any island area must be in the North Atlantic Ocean, north of the Tropic of Cancer.

A US State Department spokesperson confirmed that Hawaii is not covered by Article 5, but said Article 4 – which states that members will consult when any member's “territorial integrity, political independence, or security” is threatened – should cover any situation that could affect the state. Fifty.

The spokesman also said that any amendment to the treaty to include Hawaii was unlikely to gain consensus because other members have areas outside the boundaries set forth in Article 5.

For example, NATO did not join its founding member in the United Kingdom's war with Argentina in 1982 after Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands, a disputed British territory in the South Atlantic.

NATO did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

Hawaii, Guam, Taiwan and North Korea

Some experts say times have changed in the decades since the signing of the Washington Treaty, and say today's political situation in the Indo-Pacific region may require a rethink.

This is because US military bases in Hawaii could play a vital role in countering North Korean aggression as well as in supporting any potential defense of Taiwan.

China's ruling Communist Party claims the self-governing, democratic island as its territory even though it has never controlled it. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made “reunification” with Taiwan a key part of his overall goal of “rejuvenating” the nation by 2049.

While Chinese leaders have said they hope to take control of the island through peaceful means, they have not ruled out doing so by force — and have intensified military intimidation of the island in recent years.

The Taiwan Relations Act requires Washington to provide weapons to defend the island, and US President Joe Biden has suggested he would use US military personnel to defend it in the event of a Chinese invasion (although White House officials have said US policy is to leave that island) A vague question as to why changes).

A 2022 War Game scenario run by the Center for a New American Security, in which China attacks US command and control facilities in Hawaii as part of its war to seize Taiwan by force.

Excluding Hawaii from NATO removes an “element of deterrence” when it comes to the possibility of a Chinese strike on Hawaii in support of any potential Taiwan, says John Hemmings, senior director of the Indo-Pacific Foreign and Security Policy Program at the Pacific Forum. campaign.

He says leaving Hawaii lets Beijing know that European NATO members likely have some sort of “escape clause” when it comes to defending American territory in such a hypothetical situation.

“Why don't we put this element of deterrence at our disposal?” he asked. Hemmings says. “Why leave this off the table if it will actually prevent (China) from invading Taiwan?” he asked.

Hawaii's strategic importance also has profound historical significance for the United States

“This is where Pearl Harbor happened. This is where we had the attack that got us into World War II, and by the way, this is also what led us to help liberate France,” Hemings says.

“For Americans, there is a direct link between this country and our participation in World War II, ultimately helping us contribute to victory over the Axis (the alliance of Nazi Germany, Japan, and Italy).”

Hemmings also makes an argument in favor of including Guam, the US island in the Pacific Ocean about 3,000 miles west of Hawaii, into NATO's umbrella.

The island, long a focal point of North Korea's saber-rattling, is home to Andersen Air Force Base, from which the United States can launch its B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers across the Indo-Pacific.

Hemmings likens Guam's exclusion from NATO to the way the United States left the Korean Peninsula outside the line it had drawn across the Pacific to deter the Soviet Union and China from spreading communism in January 1950. Five months after the so-called Acheson Line was drawn, The Korean War has begun.

“The adversary feels emboldened to have a military conflict, and you end up fighting a war anyway,” Hemmings says.

Pacific Forum Santoro also points out the need to include Guam under NATO's umbrella. “Strategically, Guam is more important than Hawaii,” he says.

'Coalition of the willing'

Other analysts believe that if such a hypothetical attack were to occur on Hawaii or Guam, the deep and enduring relationships between the United States and its democratic allies would be more important in the countries' decision-making process than the technical aspects of the NATO treaty.

In the event of an attack, “I would expect…that the United States would try to form a coalition of the willing that would include primarily—but not exclusively—regional allies,” says Louis Simon, director of the Harvard-affiliated think tank. Brussels College of Government in Belgium.

Simon cites the alliance's strong and immediate response after the September 11 attacks, the only time in its 74-year history that NATO invoked the collective self-defense mechanism under Article 5.

“But Washington actually chose to direct its response through a coalition of the willing, rather than through NATO leadership,” he says. “I suspect we would see a similar reaction in the event of an attack on Guam or Hawaii, where the United States would like to retain full military control over (the response) and diplomatic flexibility,” he added.

Simon also says he sees no real difference between NATO members and their commitment to the United States and the alliance.

NATO is the cornerstone of the transatlantic democratic community. The United States and other NATO members have touted the alliance's unprecedented unity in the face of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. NATO has also toughened its common tone on China in recent years, pledging to address what it describes as “systemic challenges” posed by Beijing.

He added: “I personally have no doubt that they will be ready to provide various forms of assistance in the event of an attack against American sovereign territory, including individually and through multiple venues such as the European Union or NATO.”

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Rainerio Manuel
Rainerio Manuel

"Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst."