The last time NATO invoked Article 5 was in 2001, the day after the attack on the Twin Towers in New York.
The “all for one – one for all” article of the NATO treaty requires the alliance to act together if a member is attacked.
This time, there will be no rush to judgement. The enemy is not a band of terrorists hiding in Afghanistan, but a former nuclear-armed superpower now engaged in all-out war with a NATO– adjoining neighbour.
The stakes are very high, as we will be warned several times in the hours to come. We will also hear from officials doing what they can to save time.
The Pentagon says it cannot confirm the information. He certainly knows a lot more than that. But officials do not want to set in motion a process of escalation that will be difficult to reverse.
The priority will be to establish the facts, or a narrative that NATO can accept. It may not be the same thing.
Russian missiles kill two people in Poland
There may be an innocent explanation. The Russians fired over 85 missiles during the day. Accurately guided, but they can malfunction.
But for nine months, Russia managed to avoid hitting Ukraine’s neighbors. Was it a coincidence that this happened as world leaders were meeting without Vladimir Putin for the G20 in Bali?
It may be a deliberate act that is likely to be deniable. A crash-like attack, testing NATO as world leaders gather on the other side of the world.
If so, a response will be required. Anything less would be a sign of weakness – and it could encourage Russia to take more provocative attacks in the future. But an overreaction risks a dangerous escalation.