Alexander R. Vershbow: “Re: 2018-#8-Johnson’s Russia List [re Russia and NATO expansion]”

Alexander Vershbow file photo

Subject: Re: 2018-#8-Johnson’s Russia List [re Russia and NATO expansion]
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2018 23:24:42 -0500
From: Alexander R. Vershbow <>


Re: JRL No. 8 item 19:

Happy New Year. Steve Cohen and others, in accusing the West of “deceiving” Gorbachev and breaking an alleged “promise” not to enlarge NATO, forget that Gorbachev himself refuted this in an interview with Russia Beyond the Headlines four years ago. He made clear that NATO enlargement wasn’t on anyone’s agenda during the talks on German unification, but only became a live issue in 1993.

Here’s the link and the relevant paragraphs. Regards, Sandy Vershbow



RBTH: One of the key issues that has arisen in connection with the events in Ukraine is NATO expansion into the East. Do you get the feeling that your Western partners lied to you when they were developing their future plans in Eastern Europe? Why didn’t you insist that the promises made to you – particularly U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s promise that NATO would not expand into the East – be legally encoded? I will quote Baker: “NATO will not move one inch further east.”


M.G.: The topic of “NATO expansion” was not discussed at all, and it wasn’t brought up in those years. I say this with full responsibility. Not a singe Eastern European country raised the issue, not even after the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist in 1991. Western leaders didn’t bring it up, either. Another issue we brought up was discussed: making sure that NATO’s military structures would not advance and that additional armed forces from the alliance would not be deployed on the territory of the then-GDR after German reunification. Baker’s statement, mentioned in your question, was made in that context. Kohl and [German Vice Chancellor Hans-Dietrich] Genscher talked about it.

Everything that could have been and needed to be done to solidify that political obligation was done. And fulfilled. The agreement on a final settlement with Germany said that no new military structures would be created in the eastern part of the country; no additional troops would be deployed; no weapons of mass destruction would be placed there. It has been observed all these years. So don’t portray Gorbachev and the then-Soviet authorities as naïve people who were wrapped around the West’s finger. If there was naïveté, it was later, when the issue arose. Russia at first did not object.

The decision for the U.S. and its allies to expand NATO into the east was decisively made in 1993. I called this a big mistake from the very beginning. It was definitely a violation of the spirit of the statements and assurances made to us in 1990. With regards to Germany, they were legally enshrined and are being observed.

Alexander Vershbow
US Ambassador (retired)
Distinguished Fellow,
The Atlantic Council of the United States
1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor
Washington DC 20005