Alliances and Treaties in Legal Frameworks

Countries can reduce their requirement for national armed forces by placing their relationships with their neighbours under formal governance, instead of relying solely on independent Self-Protection.  They can make treaties which specify an arbitrating power to which they can refer disputes – which formalises their relationship as a contract within the Legal Dimension ( – or they can sign treaties which commit the parties to compliance with international law.

The NATO treaty appears to be a prime example of international collaboration for defensive purposes, as illustrated by two excerpts:

Article 3: “In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.”

Article 5: “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…”

The treaty Preamble, however, does not convince the rest of the world that the alliance is solely defensive.  It starts with the statement that “The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments” – but America has used military force without UN approval several times, most notably by invading Iraq as described in the next chapter.

The Preamble continues with words which are seen as threatening by China and Russia: “They [the NATO partners] are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law”.  Those principles are incompatible with the policies of the Russian and Chinese authoritarian governments, which prioritise the collective good over the freedom of the individual and which repress dissent, as described earlier: ( and ( respectively.

So, given America’s history of aggression and realpolitik (, NATO expansion is seen as a security threat and as a vehicle for America to grow its sphere of influence.  Russia and China have reacted by scrambling into an ad hoc alliance against it, as described next.



This is a current page, updated since publication of Patterns of Power Edition 3a.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/7271b.htm.