Documents seen by Al Jazeera Net.. How did Soviet leader Gorbachev cause the current Ukraine crisis?

Commentators attribute the roots of the current Ukraine crisis to Gorbachev’s disregard for the legalization of verbal promises, as well as to NATO’s insistence – over the past two decades – that the expansion process is open and that any country that meets the criteria for membership is eligible to join.

Washington- Documents declassified from the US National Archives and seen by Al Jazeera Net show that former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had received verbal security guarantees against NATO expansion towards the east, from President George HW Bush, his Secretary of State James Baker, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Prime Minister Britain’s Margaret Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterrand.

Gorbachev did not bother to request that these promises be written down in a signed written document, so that they would become a binding document for their future parties. While some historians believed that the codification and documentation of American and Western promises would have avoided the current crisis in Ukraine.

The former US Secretary of State met Gorbachev in February 1990, and made him promises not to expand NATO to the east (Associated Press)

Promises not to expand NATO

On February 9, 1990, during a meeting he had with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on the future of European security, then-US Secretary of State James Baker issued a famous sentence, “Not an inch to the east”, in an explicit affirmation of Washington’s lack of intention to expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). eastward.

The documents show that many leaders of European countries were rejecting the membership of any of the Central or Eastern European countries in NATO at the beginning of the nineties of the last century.

These promises came in the context of negotiations at the highest levels on German unification in 1990, which gives successive Russian complaints – about being misled about NATO expansion – a lot of credibility.

The documents reinforce the criticism of Robert Gates – the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency “CIA” (CIA) – “to move forward with the expansion of NATO eastward in the 1990s, after Gorbachev and others were led to believe that this would not happen.”

Talks about Germany’s future included German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher’s assertion to his US counterpart James Baker that “the Russians must have some guarantee that if the Polish government leaves the Warsaw Pact one day, it will not join NATO the next.”

The documents indicate that James Baker repeated what the German minister mentioned, in the same language, in his meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, and most importantly, face to face with leader Gorbachev.

In his meeting with Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, Baker repeated the phrase “not an inch east” three times, and Baker agreed to reply to Gorbachev in response to Baker’s assertions that “NATO expansion is unacceptable.”

“Neither the US President nor I intend to extract any unilateral advantages from ongoing operations,” Baker assured Gorbachev. “It is important that we have guarantees that if the United States maintains its presence in Germany within the NATO framework, the current NATO military borders will not extend into East, not even an inch.

leave the door open

The documents show that Gorbachev agreed to German unification and remaining a member of NATO as a result of this series of assurances, and that a post-Cold War settlement would take into account Soviet security interests.

But within the US government, a different discussion was taking place about the relations between NATO and Eastern European countries. Opinions differed, and the Pentagon proposed on October 25, 1990, to leave the “door open” for membership of Eastern European countries in NATO.

In contrast, the State Department’s view was that NATO expansion was not on the agenda, and that it was not in the interests of the United States to organize an “anti-Soviet coalition” extending to their country’s borders, which was officially adopted by the Bush administration.

The documents include the vision of NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner, which was expressed in July 1991 during a Russian delegation’s visit to the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Many commentators attribute the roots of the current Ukraine crisis to Gorbachev’s disregard for the codification of verbal promises, as well as NATO’s insistence, over the past two decades, that the expansion process is open and that any country that meets the criteria for membership is eligible to join, although this is not quite what the founding treaty says. alliance.

Article 10 of the Treaty states that “the Parties may, by agreement and unanimously, invite any European State which can promote the principles of this Treaty and contribute to the security of the North Atlantic region, to join it.”

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