berlin we do not want to abandon the basic agreement between russia and nato 2014

It’s clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In fact, he has a strong, almost obsessive dislike for the Alliance. He says that after the Soviet Union broke up, NATO took advantage of Russia’s weakness to grow to its east, even though Western leaders had supposedly promised Moscow they wouldn’t. But no such promises were made, and Mikhail Gorbachev, who was president of the Soviet Union at the time, has now confirmed this.

The idea that the West broke a promise not to grow NATO has long been a key part of Putin’s story about (and against) the Alliance. In his very loud speech at the Munich Security Conference in February 2007, he said:

We have the right to ask: Who is this [NATO] expansion meant to protect us from? And what happened to the promises made by our Western partners after the Warsaw Pact broke up? … I would like to quote from a speech that Mr. Woerner gave on May 17, 1990, in Brussels. At the time, he said, “The fact that we are willing not to put a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a strong guarantee of security.” Where are all of these promises?

In a speech at the Kremlin on March 18, 2014, the Russian president brought up the issue again to defend Russia’s illegal takeover of Crimea. He said, “They [Western leaders] have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, and put in front of us a done deal.” This happened when NATO grew to the east and when military infrastructure was set up on our borders. Even though it’s been clear for years that the Alliance doesn’t want to put Ukraine on a path to membership, Putin said he was horrified by the idea of NATO forces in Crimea: “If Russia hadn’t done anything, NATO’s navy would have been right there in this city of Russia’s military glory [Sevastopol], and that would have been a real threat to all of southern Russia.”

Several analysts have shown that Western leaders never made a promise not to grow NATO. In an article for The Washington Quarterly in 2009, Mark Kramer wrote in depth about the question. He used declassified records from the U.S., Germany, and the Soviet Union to make his case. He also pointed out that when the two Germanys, the U.S., the Soviet Union, Britain, and France talked about German reunification in the “two-plus-four” format, the Soviets never brought up NATO expansion except in terms of how it might affect the former German Democratic Republic (GDR).

In 1990, the Germans, Americans, British, and French all agreed that non-German NATO forces would not be sent to the territory of the former GDR. At the time, I was a deputy director at the State Department’s Soviet desk. Secretary James Baker’s talks with Gorbachev and his foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, were definitely about this. In 1990, most people didn’t give much thought to the idea of NATO expanding to the east.

Article 5 of the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, which was signed on September 12, 1990 by the foreign ministers of the two Germanys, the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and France, said that foreign troops could not be stationed on the land of the former GDR. There were three parts to Article 5:

Until the Soviets finished pulling out of the former GDR, only German territorial defence units that were not part of NATO would be stationed there.
There would be no increase in the number of U.S., British, or French troops in Berlin or in the amount of equipment they had.
Once the Soviet forces left, German forces that were part of NATO could be sent to the former GDR. However, foreign forces and nuclear weapons systems could not be sent there.
When the full text of Woerner’s speech, which Putin used as an example, is read, it is clear that the secretary general was talking about NATO forces in eastern Germany and not about a wider promise not to grow the Alliance.

Now, a voice from Moscow with a lot of authority backs up what we already knew. Gorbachev, who was president of the Soviet Union during the talks and treaty negotiations about German reunification, was interviewed by Russia Behind the Headlines. The interviewer asked Gorbachev why he didn’t “insist that the promises made to you [Gorbachev]—especially U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s promise that NATO would not expand into the East—be legally encoded?” Gorbachev said, “The subject of “NATO expansion” was never brought up, and it was never talked about at all.” Another thing we brought up that was talked about was making sure that NATO’s military structures wouldn’t move forward and that more armed forces wouldn’t be put on the land of the former GDR after Germany reunified. Baker’s words were made in that situation… Everything that could have been done and needed to be done to make that political obligation stronger was done. And fulfilled.”

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