U.S. 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 declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents posted today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
It turns out the Russians have a reason to be upset about the expansion of NATO. And this isn’t from some libertarian nut-job (like bionic mosquito) or non-interventionist outfit (like The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity).
Before getting to some of the evidence, just what is “the National Security Archive at George Washington University”?
Founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents (“the world’s largest nongovernmental collection” according to the Los Angeles Times), leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets.
The documents provide evidence that assurances were offered by western leaders at the highest level: Bush, Thatcher, Major, and Mitterand are but a few examples. In other words, a Mt. Rushmore of liars.
- The documents reinforce former CIA Director Robert Gates’s criticism of “pressing ahead with expansion of NATO eastward [in the 1990s], when Gorbachev and others were led to believe that wouldn’t happen.”
- President George H.W. Bush had assured Gorbachev during the Malta summit in December 1989 that the U.S. would not take advantage…of the revolutions in Eastern Europe to harm Soviet interests…
- The first concrete assurances by Western leaders on NATO began on January 31, 1990…
- The U.S. Embassy in Bonn (see Document 1) informed Washington that Genscher made clear “that the changes in Eastern Europe and the German unification process must not lead to an ‘impairment of Soviet security interests.’
- …the crucial February 10, 1990, meeting in Moscow between Kohl and Gorbachev when the West German leader achieved Soviet assent in principle to German unification in NATO, as long as NATO did not expand to the east.
- The conversations before Kohl’s assurance involved explicit discussion of NATO expansion, the Central and East European countries, and how to convince the Soviets to accept unification.
- Having met with Genscher on his way into discussions with the Soviets, Baker repeated exactly the Genscher formulation in his meeting with Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze on February 9, 1990, (see Document 4); and even more importantly, face to face with Gorbachev.
- Not once, but three times, Baker tried out the “not one inch eastward” formula with Gorbachev in the February 9, 1990, meeting.
It gets better (or worse, I suppose) as you go through the article.
The National Security Archive identifies and includes 30 different documents as evidence for this post, for example:
- Document 05: Memorandum of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and James Baker in Moscow.
- Document 12-1: Memorandum of conversation between Vaclav Havel and George Bush in Washington.
- Document 14: Memorandum of conversation between George Bush and Eduard Shevardnadze in Washington.
- Document 18: Record of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and James Baker in Moscow.
- Document 21: Record of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush. White House, Washington D.C.
- Document 29: Paul Wolfowitz Memoranda of Conversation with Vaclav Havel and Lubos Dobrovsky in Prague.
This last document is interesting, as it offers a glimpse into one of the real enemies of peace in this world. From the summary:
Havel informs [Wolfowitz] that Soviet Ambassador Kvitsinsky was in Prague negotiating a bilateral agreement, and the Soviets wanted the agreement to include a provision that Czechoslovakia would not join alliances hostile to the USSR. Wolfowitz advises both Havel and Dobrovsky not to enter into such agreements…
It’s the Ninth Circle for you.
The National Security Archive promises a second part to their analysis; it will cover the Yeltsin discussions with Western leaders about NATO…over vodka, I imagine.
Well, Baker never said anything about two inches eastward. Anyway, technically these assurances were given to the Soviets, not the Russians.
The key phrase, buttressed by the documents, is “led to believe.”
I guess too bad for the Russkies…and too bad for world peace.
“Oh, but it wasn’t a treaty.”
As if a treaty would have stopped the empire.
Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.