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Guess Which US State Isn't Covered by NATO?

Hawaii, the 50th state to be folded into US isn't technically covered by the pact
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2024 7:31 AM CDT
Guess Which US State Isn't Covered by NATO?
   (Getty / bpperry)

Sweden ascended to the ranks of NATO last month, joining the United States and 30 other nations in the intergovernmental military alliance—though the United States isn't exactly 100% "united" on this front. That's because one of the 50 states, Hawaii, isn't covered under the treaty, due to what CNN calls "a quirk of geography and history." What this means is that if a foreign entity attacked Hawaii—site of the Pearl Harbor strike in World War II—NATO technically wouldn't be required to come to the rescue. It's a fact that many Hawaiians don't even know, notes David Santoro, head of the Pacific Forum think tank, adding, "It's the weirdest thing."

  • Why: The reasoning behind it is pretty self-explanatory once you look more closely at the expansion of the acronym. NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and while the other 49 US states are all contained on the giant land mass that has an eastern shore along the Atlantic Ocean, Hawaii is drifting alone in the Pacific—ie, with no ties to the Atlantic.

  • More specifically: Getting further into the weeds, it all comes down to two articles in the treaty: Article 5, which "provides for collective self-defense in the event of a military attack on any member state," and Article 6, which "limits the geographic scope of that." The latter specifies that any island territories belonging to the US or a European nation have to be in the Mediterranean or the Atlantic Ocean, north of the Tropic of Cancer.
  • However: A State Department rep confirms to CNN that Hawaii doesn't qualify under Article 5 but added that under Article 4—which says NATO members will confer when "the territorial integrity, political independence, or security" of another member is in peril—Hawaii should be covered in the event of an attack.
  • Discovery: Per, a UPI reporter stumbled upon the omission in 1965, six years after the Aloha State became part of the US. American officials never bothered to update the language to include Hawaii.
  • Other nations: Part of the reason for balking at adding Hawaii is that doing so could spur other member nations to demand their own territories are added, a possible logistical headache, Alan Mendoza of the UK's Henry Jackson Society think tank tells Newsweek. One example: Britain's Falkland Islands in the southern Atlantic. When Argentina invaded those islands in 1982, NATO had no obligation to defend them.
(More NATO stories.)

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