NATO expansion was a key issue as the US, Western European and Soviet leaders negotiated the reunification of Germany. Sputnik is reporting this on Wednesday.
The Russian broadcaster said that US and Western European leaders repeatedly promised their Soviet and Russian counterparts in the early 1990s that NATO would not expand into Eastern Europe, according to a series of declassified documents posted by George Washington University’s National Security Archive on Tuesday.
A press release summarizing the document cache said that US Secretary of State James Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German unification in 1990 and on into 1991.
According to the documents, then German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher had urged NATO to rule out an “expansion of its territory towards the east, i.e. moving it closer to the Soviet borders.”
Genscher also proposed excluding East Germany from NATO’s security umbrella after German reunification.
But, writes Sputnik, in subsequent years NATO has expanded beyond the former East Germany to include 13 Eastern European countries, the latest being Montenegro’s admission in June 2017.
Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have repeatedly stated that the United States failed to uphold its promises, adding that the Ukrainian conflict following the 2014 coup that installed a pro-Western government in Kiev has served as a pretext for additional deployments in Europe.
In 2016, the alliance has decided to approve sending four multinational battalions to each of the Baltic states — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — and Poland.
Most recently, Sputnik reported, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance would maintain increased presence in the Baltic states and Eastern Europe “as long as necessary” after the alliance’s members had agreed on instituting a new adaptive command structure to improve the alliance’s ability “to improve the movement of military forces across Europe.”