Was there any commitment to Moscow not to expand NATO eastward? – SWR knowledge

Claimed by Putin, but historically incorrect

This has been repeatedly stated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, but historically it is not correct. The claim refers to the so-called two plus four negotiations in 1990. These talks were about German reunification after the fall of the Wall. Included were: The two German states of the Federal Republic and the GDR, as well as the four winning powers: the USA, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Apparently, so says the claim, during these talks there was a guarantee from the West that NATO would not expand beyond Germany.

The non-binding wording reflects Genscher’s personal attitude

One of the main proofs of this statement is the following statement made in February 1990 by the then Federal Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher after a meeting with his American counterpart James Baker in Washington.

“We agreed that there was no intention to expand NATO’s defense zone to the east. This does not only apply to the GDR, which we do not want to incorporate, but applies in general.”

Genscher actually said that. But it is also true that Genscher only reflects his personal attitude. The statement was not an omission in the negotiations, but rather a soft signal on the eve of the current negotiations. They had not even started yet. Hence this non-binding wording: The fact that “there is no intention to enlarge NATO” was an accurate statement at the time, because an eastward expansion could not even be thought of at that time. Soviet troops were still stationed in the GDR, and the GDR, like the countries of Eastern Europe, still belonged to the Warsaw Pact.

Federal Foreign Minister Genscher could not speak for NATO

Moreover, as Germany’s foreign minister, Genscher was unable to talk about NATO. In any case, these statements were only a short-term discussion before the start of negotiations, which ultimately did not enter into the actual discussions nor the contract.

It may be that Genscher was serious about him in February 1990, but the United States distanced itself from that stance, as did Chancellor Helmut Kohl. And that was no secret even in the negotiations.

The question was whether both parts of Germany should belong to NATO

Everyone involved in the talks – including Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev – later explained that a possible expansion east of NATO was by no means an issue in further talks. The only thing that mattered was the question: will all of Germany belong to NATO in the future? The Soviet Union agreed to this – especially after the West promised it an injection of five billion marks.

No clashes between NATO and Soviet troops

Next question: If Germany is part of NATO, will NATO operate in East Germany in the future and, so to speak, share the area with Soviet troops still stationed there? That, the pledge said, would not happen – and it did not happen until Soviet forces withdrew from East Germany in 1994.

Kurz: Yes, there was a lot of talk about a future NATO expansion to the east, but there were no promises or commitments regarding reunification.

NATO-Russia Founding Act signed in 1997

Even if someone was wrong, the story went on: in 1997 both sides signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act. In it, Russia acknowledges that it has no veto power over other countries’s NATO membership. Most recently, Moscow paved the way for the accession of other Eastern European countries to the NATO alliance. Moscow also received something in return, namely further economic support on the one hand and a guarantee on the other, for which then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin was expressly pleased when he said of the future new NATO countries:

“There will be no nuclear weapons in the new member states. It is a strong and binding commitment of the signatory states. “

NATO is allowed to expand eastward, but not to deploy nuclear weapons there

This statement by Boris Yeltsin comes from a 1997 radio report, which can be heard on the SWR2 archive radio podcast. It proves what was being negotiated at the time: NATO could expand eastward, but not deploy nuclear weapons there. She has stood by this to this day.

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