The dan­ger­ous NATO ex­pan­sion

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - JONATHAN POWER

NATO has just an­nounced a plan to send troops to the al­liance’s eastern flank, close to the Rus­sian border. The or­gan­i­sa­tion says it is at­tempt­ing to de­ter po­ten­tial Rus­sian ag­gres­sion. The UK, the US, Canada and Ger­many will lead four bat­tle groups that will be based in Poland and the Baltic states. Diplo­mats say the troops will act as a de­ter­rent of Rus­sian ag­gres­sion by act­ing as a “tripwire” that would trig­ger a full re­sponse from the al­liance if nec­es­sary

On Sun­day, Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier con­demned Western “sabre rat­tling and war cries”.

He said: “Any­one who be­lieves the sym­bolic tank pa­rades on the al­liance’s eastern border will in­crease se­cu­rity is wrong.”

Apart from the ap­palling fact that the West is con­tem­plat­ing an all-out war against Rus­sia, there is the plain fact that it has ex­panded NATO in con­tra­ven­tion of the solemn un­der­stand­ings given the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War.

The deal was straight­for­ward. The Soviet Union would agree to the re­uni­fi­ca­tion of East and West Ger­many and ac­cept that East Ger­many be­comes part of NATO in re­turn for a non-ex­pan­sion prom­ise.

It is the break­ing of this prom­ise, more than any other one thing, that fu­elled the resur­gence of hos­tile Rus­sian opin­ion against the West and prompted Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin to be­come in­creas­ingly de­ter­mined to put the West in its place.

Now, with this move, the Rus­sians, un­der­stand­ably, are livid. There are a num­ber of schol­ars and politi­cians from that era, in­clud­ing pres­i­dent H.W. Bush’s sec­re­tary of state James Baker, who did most of the ne­go­ti­at­ing at that time with Soviet pres­i­dent Mikhail Gor­bachev, who have since tried to re­write his­tory and say there were no prom­ises made.

But nei­ther Baker nor schol­ars can deny — they do not try to — that on Fe­bru­ary 9, 1990, Baker told Gor­bachev in Moscow that “there will be no ex­ten­sion of NATO’s ju­ris­dic­tion or NATO’s forces one inch to the East” if Gor­bachev agreed to Ger­man re­uni­fi­ca­tion.

To re­in­force this mes­sage, the next day the West Ger­man chan­cel­lor, Hel­mut Kohl, and for­eign min­is­ter Hans Deitrich Gen­scher of­fered the Soviet lead­ers sim­i­lar terms.

Later, Baker con­firmed pub­licly at a State De­part­ment press con­fer­ence that he agreed with Gen­sher. The US am­bas­sador to Moscow at the time, Jack Mat­lock, who was in the room with Gor­bachev and Baker, con­firmed that these words were said by Baker to Gor­bachev.

But re­vi­sion­ist schol­ars have tried to ob­fus­cate this un­der­stand­ing. It has been ar­gued that US lead­ers saw these terms as be­ing raised “spec­u­la­tively” as part of an on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tion and far from a fi­nal deal.

Thus, the US was free to re­vise the of­fer and Gor­bachev was made no fi­nal prom­ise.

This is as Machi­avel­lian an in­ter­pre­ta­tion as one could dream up.

Com­mon sense sug­gests that Gor­bachev was not go­ing to rad­i­cally change 45 years of East Ger­man and Soviet his­tory with­out a very big quid pro quo.

Since no other sub­ject was on the ta­ble, it is ob­vi­ous that there was a quid pro quo and this was it. One scholar, Mary Sarotte, writes that the Soviet lead­ers failed to ob­tain “writ­ten as­sur­ances” against NATO ex­pan­sion.

That is right. But why should Gor­bachev de­mand them when the Cold War was com­ing to an end so am­i­ca­bly and the wide­spread feel­ing was that there would never be en­mity again and the Soviet Union would be­come close to NATO, and maybe even seek fu­ture mem­ber­ship of it?

There is another po­lit­i­cal “scan­dal” from that pe­riod. Be­hind Gor­bachev’s back, as the US ne­go­tia­tors “were stress­ing lim­its on NATO’s fu­ture pres­ence in the east, the US was pri­vately plan­ning for an Amer­i­can-dom­i­nated post-Cold War sys­tem and tak­ing steps to achieve this ob­jec­tive”, ac­cord­ing to Joshua Shifrin­son, writ­ing in the new is­sue of Har­vard Univer­sity’s quar­terly, In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity.

“In July 1990, Baker stated that a re­vamped CSCE [Com­mis­sion on Se­cu­rity and Co­op­er­a­tion in Europe] which had Soviet mem­ber­ship would pro­vide a ‘half­way house’ for those coun­tries who want out of the War­saw Pact but can’t join NATO and the Euro­pean Union.”

Some­what para­dox­i­cally, Baker did not want to see a CSCE that over­shad­owed NATO.

By Oc­to­ber 1990, de­tailed dis­cus­sions about the fu­ture ex­pan­sion of NATO were un­der way in the State De­part­ment, al­beit with the be­lief that this would only hap­pen if the Soviet Union be­haved “badly”.

Con­tra­dic­to­rily, in an in­ter­nal study on NATO, the State De­part­ment wrote that “we are not in a po­si­tion to guar­an­tee the fu­ture of these Eastern coun­tries and do not wish in any case to or­gan­ise an anti-Soviet coali­tion whose fron­tier is the Soviet border. Such a coali­tion would be per­ceived very neg­a­tively by the Sovi­ets and could lead to a re­ver­sal of cur­rent pos­i­tive trends in Eastern Europe”.

Over the last 20 years, an anti-Soviet/Rus­sian coali­tion is what evolved and that is why Rus­sia has ended up con­fronting the West. —Cour­tesy: TJT

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