Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org
SUMMARY (to be documented below)
The conditionality of the Soviet Union’s agreement to allow East Germany to be taken by West Germany and for the Cold War to end, was that NATO would not expand “one inch to the east.” This was the agreement that was approved by the Russian President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, a great man and a subsequent hero to democrats around the world. He agreed then to end the Soviet Union and abandon communism, end the Warsaw Pact communist military alliance (the Soviet Union’s equivalent of America’s NATO alliance), and thus end the entire Cold War; he agreed to all this, because he had been promised that NATO would expand not “one inch to the east,” or “one inch eastward,” depending upon how the promise was translated and understood — but it has the same meaning, no matter how it was translated. It meant that America would not try to place its nuclear missiles right across Russia’s borders, close enough to Moscow to perhaps launch a blitz nuclear attack that would eliminate Russia’s retaliatory missiles faster than Russia could launch its missiles against a NATO (U.S.) first-strike surprise attack. He trusted American President George Herbert Walker Bush, whose friend and Secretary of State James Baker made this promise to Gorbachev. With this promise (basically the promise not to expand NATO any closer to Russia than it already was), Gorbachev agreed to end the Soviet Union; end the communist Warsaw Pact mutual-defense alliance which was the communists’ equivalent and counterpart to NATO; and he believed that the remaining nation that he would then be leading, which was to be Russia, would ultimately be accepted as a Western democracy. He was even promised by the United States that “we were going to make them a member [of NATO], we were — observer first and then a member.” He thought that the Cold War was ending, and this is why he did all those things.
This was the deal, ending the 46-year Cold War.
Russia kept its part of the bargain. It ended the Berlin Wall, allowed East Germany to join with West Germany; ended the Warsaw Pact; and ended communism. Russia ended its entire Cold War against the U.S., not just the ideology but the Soviet Union and its alliances. But, in contravention of the promise that had been made to Gorbachev, the U.S. and its allies did not end their war against a now free and democratic Russia. Instead, over the years, the NATO alliance absorbed, one by one, the former member-nations of the Warsaw Pact — and yet refused to allow membership to Russia. NATO expanded eastward, right up to Russia’s borders, exactly the opposite of what it had promised.
Russia’s continued (and continuing) desire to join NATO has simply been spurned. In following decades, not only did NATO absorb virtually all of the former Warsaw Pact, but in the Middle East, the U.S. (sometimes joined by its European and/or its fundamentalist-Sunni Arab allies) also invaded (either directly as in Iraq 2003, or via bombing and Al Qaeda-led jihadist-proxy forces such as in Libya 2011, and in Syria 2011-), so as to overthrow the existing Russia-friendly leader, in first Iraq, then Libya, then Syria, and now increasingly threatening the Russia-allied Shia nation, Iran.
Here, that history will be documented, with links to the sources, so that any reader who questions a given allegation can come directly to its source. What will be documented here will be that, whereas the Cold War ended on Russia’s side, it secretly continued (and continues) on America’s side. America’s war against Russia has recently even been intensifying, and Russia is now responding to it.
“I was there when we told the Russians that we were going to make them a member, we were–observer first and then a member”: Lawrence Wilkerson, 3 October 2014, on The Real News Network, at 18:54 in the interview.
“When I spoke with Baker, he agreed that he told Gorbachev that if the Soviet Union allowed German reunification and membership in NATO, the West would not expand NATO ‘one inch to the east’”: Bill Bradley, 22 August 2009, in Foreign Policy.
“Mr. Kohl chose to echo Mr. Baker, not Mr. Bush. The chancellor assured Mr. Gorbachev, as Mr. Baker had done, that ‘naturally NATO could not expand its territory’ into East Germany. … Crucially, the Gorbachev-Kohl meeting ended with a deal, as opposed to the Gorbachev-Baker session the previous day. … Mr. Kohl and his aides publicized this major concession immediately at a press conference. Then they returned home to begin merging the two Germanys under one currency and economic system”: Mary Elise Sarotte, New York Times, 29 November 2009.
“According to records from Kohl’s office, the chancellor chose to echo Baker, not Bush, since Baker’s softer line was more likely to produce the results that Kohl wanted: permission from Moscow to start reunifying Germany. Kohl thus assured Gorbachev that ‘naturally NATO could not expand its territory to the current territory of [East Germany].’ In parallel talks, Genscher delivered the same message to his Soviet counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, saying, ‘for us, it stands firm: NATO will not expand itself to the East.’ … But Kohl’s phrasing would quickly become heresy among the key Western decision-makers. Once Baker got back to Washington, in mid-February 1990, he fell in line with the National Security Council’s view and adopted its position. From then on, members of Bush’s foreign policy team exercised strict message discipline, making no further remarks about NATO holding at the 1989 line. Kohl, too, brought his rhetoric in line with Bush’s, as both U.S. and West German transcripts from the two leaders’ February 24–25 summit at Camp David show. Bush made his feelings about compromising with Moscow clear to Kohl: ‘To hell with that!’ he said. ‘We prevailed, they didn’t.’ … In April, Bush spelled out this thinking in a confidential telegram to French President François Mitterrand. … Bush was making it clear to Mitterrand that the dominant security organization in a post–Cold War Europe had to remain NATO — not any kind of pan-European alliance. As it happened, the next month, Gorbachev proposed just such a pan-European arrangement, one in which a united Germany would join both NATO and the Warsaw Pact, thus creating one massive security institution. Gorbachev even raised the idea of having the Soviet Union join NATO. ‘You say that NATO is not directed against us, that it is simply a security structure that is adapting to new realities,’ Gorbachev told Baker in May, according to Soviet records. ‘Therefore, we propose to join NATO.’ Baker refused to consider such a notion, replying dismissively, Pan-European security is a dream.’ … By the time of the Camp David summit, … all members of Bush’s team, along with Kohl, had united behind an offer in which Gorbachev would receive financial assistance from West Germany — and little else — in exchange for allowing Germany to reunify and for allowing a united Germany to be part of NATO”: Mary Elise Sarotte, Foreign Affairs, October 2014.
“A failure to appreciate how the Cold War ended has had a profound impact on Russian and Western attitudes — and helps explain what we are seeing now. The common assumption that the West forced the collapse of the Soviet Union and thus won the Cold War is wrong. The fact is that the Cold War ended by negotiation to the advantage of both sides. At the December 1989 Malta summit, Mikhail Gorbachev and President George H.W. Bush confirmed that the ideological basis for the war was gone, stating that the two nations no longer regarded each other as enemies. Over the next two years, we worked more closely with the Soviets than with even some of our allies. … ‘By the grace of God, America won the Cold War,’ Bush said during his 1992 State of the Union address. That rhetoric would not have been particularly damaging on its own. But it was reinforced by actions taken under the next three presidents. President Bill Clinton supported NATO’s bombing of Serbia without U.N. Security Council approval and the expansion of NATO to include former Warsaw Pact countries. Those moves seemed to violate the understanding that the United States would not take advantage of the Soviet retreat from Eastern Europe. The effect on Russians’ trust in the United States was devastating”: Jack Matlock, Washington Post, 14 March 2014.
“Sir Rodric Braithwaite GCMG, former British Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Russia, informed us that assurances were given in 1990 by the US (James Baker, US Secretary of State) and Germany (Helmut Kohl, German Chancellor), and in 1991 on behalf of the UK (by the then Prime Minister, John Major, and the British Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd) and France (by French President Francois Mitterrand). Sir Rodric Braithwaite said that this ‘factual record has not been successfully challenged in the West’”: The EU and Russia: before and beyond the crisis in Ukraine, 20 February 2015, British House of Lords, paragraph 107.
These personal recollections of the negotiations were based entirely upon what these people had recollected from having been there and heard the spoken conversations. None of them are sourced to the documents that were placed in the official records while these negotiations were taking place. Scholars who base their conclusions upon the official records dismiss those conversations and rely totally upon official statements that are in the records for scholars to base their ‘historical’ accounts upon. Whereas all of the “Testimony” that has been cited here was made public from 2009 on, an article was published by Harvard’s Director of Cold War Studies, Mark Kramer, in the April 2009 The Washington Quarterly, titled “The Myth of a No-NATO-Enlargement Pledge to Russia” in which the ‘history’ was based entirely upon the official printed record. He makes clear that nothing in the official printed record backs up the testimony which is presented above. Here is a summary of Kramer’s case, for anyone who, like he, relies only upon the official records:
There was no no-NATO-enlargement pledge that was made, because there was no written document that was signed between the two sides embodying it, because Gorbachev didn’t think that it was necessary — he trusted the verbal statements. Indeed, he was extremely upbeat about U.S. Government intentions and thought that the existing international problems were the result of Soviet communist barbarism and deceitfulness; he assumed that America and its NATO really did have no intentions of conquest against Russia once the Soviet Union would end. Here is how Kramer describes the situation in his “The Myth of a No-NATO-Enlargement Pledge to Russia,” in the April 2009 The Washington Quarterly (p. 43):
Gorbachev and his advisers even initially hoped that they could benefit from what had just happened. A leading adviser on Europe, Sergei Karaganov, expressed this view in early 1990: “The changes in the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, and Romania have provided a potent push for perestroika . . . They have strengthened its irreversibility, and showed that there is no reasonable alternative to the democratization of the political system and the marketization of the economy.19” Unduly optimistic though this statement may seem in retrospect, it was an accurate reflection of the still surprisingly upbeat mood in the Kremlin during the first several weeks of 1990. Gorbachev himself made similar comments when he met with ten senior foreign policy advisers on January 26, 1990 to discuss the status of Germany.
When Kramer uses the phrases there, “Unduly optimistic,” and “surprisingly upbeat mood in the Kremlin,” Kramer is stating that Gorbachev’s view of the U.S. Government, and of its allies, was surprising because it was unrealistic. It was, in fact, stunningly naive, but that’s what it was — and this is the reason why Gorbachev didn’t demand anything to be signed about the commitment.
Furthermore, Kramer (on the very next page) states, “Almost all of his advisers were equally optimistic.” Gorbachev, like many leaders, surrounded himself with people who believed the way he did. Kramer went on to document that Gorbachev was so naive as to think that both France’s Miterrand and UK’s Thatcher were leaders of independent countries, not ruled by the U.S., and that both of them were even “wary of German reunification,” not doing everything they could to bring it about (and yet Kramer does say that Gorbachev recognized that German reunification would be the East being absorbed into the West, that the U.S. side would win East Germany — there was a limit to Gorbachev’s illusions, and the U.S. side didn’t even pretend that it would be any other way than this).
Kramer states (p. 47) that on 7 February 1990, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker met in Moscow with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnaze,
using [West German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich] Genscher’s formulation, that if Germany were included in NATO, the United States and its allies would guarantee ’that NATO’s jurisdiction or forces would not move eastward.’ Later in the conversation, Baker repeated that if a united Germany were securely rooted in NATO, the U.S. government could guarantee that no NATO forces would ever be deployed on the territory of the former GDR [East Germany]. Shevardnaze did not seem convinced that NATO membership for a united Germany would be desirable.
So Kramer admits there, that at least the Soviet Foreign Minister didn’t fully trust the U.S. side’s verbal commitments on this matter. Kramer subsequently (p. 48) states:
The phrasing of these passages and the context of the negotiations leave no doubt that Baker and Gorbachev (and Baker and Shevardnadze the day before) were talking about an extension of NATO into East Germany, and nothing more. This portion of their discussion was entirely about the future of Germany, including its relationship with NATO. At no point in the discussion did either Baker or Gorbachev bring up the question of the possible extension of NATO membership to other Warsaw Pact countries beyond Germany. Indeed, it never would have occurred to them to raise an issue that was not on the agenda anywhere not in Washington, not in Moscow, and not in any other Warsaw Pact or NATO capital. The concept Baker was advocating NATO membership for a united Germany.
Kramer says (p. 52) that on 25 February 1990, at a press conference:
The two leaders [Bush and Kohl] were determined to adhere to this position and were privately confident that they could eventually induce Gorbachev to accept it in return for large-scale financial support, a supposition that proved to be correct. They never believed, or had any reason to believe, that part of the deal would have to be an assurance that their governments would not someday bring other former East-bloc countries into NATO.
Kramer also states (p. 51):
Declassified records of the negotiations, along with many thousands of pages of other relevant documents, confirm that at no point during the ‘‘24’’ process did Gorbachev or any other Soviet official bring up the question of NATO expansion to East European countries beyond East Germany. Certainly no one in Moscow demanded or received an ‘‘assurance’’ that no additional Warsaw Pact countries would ever be allowed to join the Western alliance. Nor did anyone seek to link German reunification with this issue.
Kramer’s article then goes on at length to explain the many ways in which Gorbachev was becoming weaker and weaker during the following months and had to accept whatever the U.S. and its allies might offer. He closes (p. 55):
The purpose here has simply been to determine whether Russian and Western observers and officials are justified in arguing that the U.S. government, and perhaps some of the other NATO governments, made a ‘‘pledge’’ to Gorbachev in 1990 that if the USSR consented to Germany’s full membership in NATO after unification, the alliance would not expand to include any other East European countries. Declassified materials show unmistakably that no such pledge was made. Valid arguments can be made against NATO enlargement, but this particular argument is spurious.
His assumption that classified portions of those or of other “documents” don’t include and aren’t remaining classified on account of, indications that such a verbal agreement and understanding did exist, is possibly true, but it might be false; and, in either case, the testimony that has been cited here does exist, regardless of whether scholars such as Kramer grant it any credence.
Furthermore, the entire record is consistent that Gorbachev and Bush, and their respective allies, were negotiating — whatever the actual understandings that were reached might have been — in a situation where Gorbachev was, by far, in the weaker position. Bush’s secret statement at the key moment, the night of 24 February 1990, “To hell with that! We won, they didn’t!” was undoubtedly true; but, what is not true (and is displayed to be not true in that secret statement), is that the U.S. side had any real desire or aim or objective to end the war against the now-to-become isolated rump remaining country, the now-to-be non-communist independent nation of Russia. Subsequent events have made unequivocally clear that that representation, which had been made constantly to Gorbachev, was a lie. The Cold War was ended only on Russia’s side.
Gorbachev’s failure to demand these assurances in writing has been widely criticized, but handshake agreements in international affairs are common, and no treaty was to be signed at the end of the Cold War because it hadn’t been a hot war: there were no claims, no restitution or reparations to be paid by either side to the other. Gorbachev thought that the U.S. was honest and could be trusted — that understandings reached in private and witnessed by numerous participants (such as those quoted here) would be honored by the West, as they would be by Russia. NATO membership now includes almost all of the former Warsaw Pact nations.
Sadly, he was trusting mega-crooks (leaders of the American and allied nations) who were led by a super-gangster, G.H.W. Bush, and the entire world is suffering from those crooks today, and every day. Instead of the West apologizing, and stopping, it insults Russia constantly. It’s digging in deeper, into G.H.W. Bush’s original sin, the West’s mega-crime, which produces increasing global chaos and bloodshed, in Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere, and now a resulting refugee crisis throughout Europe.
For example, Defense News, the trade journal for U.S. military contractors, headlined on 4 September 2015, “Ukraine’s New Military Doctrine Identifies Russia As Aggressor, Eyes Naval Acquisitions,” and reported that:
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk [whom Victoria Nuland of the U.S. State Department had appointed on 4 February 2014, 18 days before the coup] said that the country’s new draft military doctrine is the first in Ukraine’s history to clearly identify Russia as an enemy and an aggressor. The announcement was made Sept. 1 during the prime minister’s visit to Odessa. … Yatsenyuk said that … the Ukrainian President “will sign the corresponding decree.” … Vice Admiral James Foggo, commander of the US 6th Fleet, and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt [who took instructions from Nuland and ran the coup for her] took part in the ceremony. … “We feel as one force with our partners, NATO [member] states, with our American partners. Therefore, the American ships have entered and will [defeat the Russians in Crimea and expell from the naval base there the Russian navy which has been headquartered there since 1783, and so] enter the Ukrainian territorial waters in the future. We will continue our joint exercise,” Yatsenyuk said.
It’s a criminal gang. Worse: it’s a self-righteous criminal gang, which accuses its victims.
SUMMARY OF THE CASE AGAINST THE U.S. AND ITS ALLIES
James Baker, at the start of 1990, tells Gorbachev that NATO will move “not one inch to the east.” Mitterrand & Kohl second that.
Then, in secret: 24 February 1990, GHW Bush tells Baker and Mitterrand and Kohl, “To hell with that. We prevailed, they didn’t”
Then, Gorbachev, from whom that statement by Bush was hidden, proposes that Russia become admitted into NATO.
Address by Secretary General, Manfred Wörner to the Bremer Tabaks Collegium, Brussels, 17 May 1990, which includes this:
Our strategy and our Alliance are exclusively defensive. They threaten no-one, neither today nor tomorrow. We will never be the first to use our weapons. We are prepared for radical disarmament, right down to the minimum level that we must retain to guarantee our security.
This will also be true of a united Germany in NATO. The very fact that we are ready not to deploy NATO troops beyond the territory of the Federal Republic gives the Soviet Union firm security guarantees. Moreover we could conceive of a transitional period during which a reduced number of Soviet forces could remain stationed in the present-day GDR. This will meet Soviet concerns about not changing the overall East-West strategic balance. Soviet politicians are wrong to claim that German membership of NATO will lead to instability. The opposite is true. Europe including the Soviet Union would gain stability. It would also gain a genuine partner in the West ready to cooperate.
We have left behind us the old friend/foe mind-set and the confrontational outlook. We do not need enemies nor threat perceptions. We do not look upon the Soviet Union as the enemy. We want that nation to become our partner in ensuring security. On the other hand, we expect the Soviet Union not to see us as a military pact directed against it or even threatening it. Instead we wish the Soviet Union to see our Alliance as an open and cooperative instrument of stability in an over-arching European security system. We are not proposing something to the Soviet Union which is against its interests. What we have to offer can only be to its advantage. I am confident that this insight will gradually gain ground in Moscow, especially as the other Warsaw Pact countries see things the same way as we do.
The promise to Gorbachev continued, and was presented there in public, even after Bush had already privately told his agents (Baker, Kohl, Miterrand, etc.) that it would be a lie. The lie continued, until Gorbachev had acted upon its assurances to such an extent that the break-up of the USSR and end of the Warsaw Pact were irreversible.
And that is how we got to where we are today.
This is war by NATO in intent; it is the exact opposite of what the U.S. (and its NATO allies) had promised to Russia, on the basis of which the Warsaw Pact ended. How can the Russian people then trust such a country as the United States? They would need to be fools to do so.
Russians are terrified by U.S. nuclear missiles based on or near Russia’s borders now, just as Americans were terrified by having Soviet missiles near America’s borders, based in Cuba, back in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was the last time that World War III and nuclear destruction of the world threatened as much as it does today, this time due entirely to the U.S. aristocracy’s obsession to conquer Russia.
But this deceit, this double-cross, isn’t merely America’s shame; it has also become the shame by the entirety of the nations that joined in that Western promise at the time. Because, all of them accepted America’s leadership in this double-crossing war against Russia — America’s war ultimately aiming to conquer Russia. They accept this merely by remaining as members of the now-nefarious international military gang, which NATO has thus become. Worse yet, some of the other member-nations of NATO at the time were (like West Germany’s Kohl, who was the model for his protégé Angela Merkel, who now continues the crime) themselves key participants in the making, and now breaking, of that promise to Russia. Instead of apologies, Russia gets constant insults. The lies continue. And now Russia’s border is infested with NATO troops, tanks, planes, and missiles.
POSTSCRIPT: I subsequently wrote an article “Understanding The Power-Contest Between Aristocracies”, placing the U.S.-Russian relationship into the broader context of the global war between the U.S.-Sunni alliance versus the Russia-Shiite alliance — basically, The West’s (U.S. and Russia) taking opposite sides in the intensifying global intra-Islamic rift.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.