May 26, 2022

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Did NATO expand to the East and “betray” Russia?

In the 1990s, the Americans promised the Russians not to expand the Atlantic Alliance to the East. Thirty years later, the Kremlin continues to maintain this myth of the West’s broken promise to justify its threats to Ukraine. Descriptions.

This is one of the main demands of Russia Ukrainian crisis : North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) must stop expanding to the east and close the door of Kiev firmly.

The Kremlin rejected the request in a letter sent by the US ambassador to the Russian Foreign Ministry this week.

While the current conflict between Russia and the West rests on many flaws, the description of Western treason has been prominent in Moscow’s rhetoric for decades.

In the most aggressive speech of 2007 at the Munich Security Conference, Vladimir Putin The West has been accused of violating its “guarantees” by extending NATO to Russia’s gates – especially the Baltic states, which joined the coalition in 2004. “What happened to the promises made by our Western partners after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. [le pendant soviétique de l’Otan] ? Where are these reports today? No one remembers, “said the Kremlin leader.

NATO’s expansion into Eastern European countries. © France Graphic Studio24

In fact, NATO has not stopped looking east since the fall of the Soviet Union, and has been moving to 16 to 30 countries, mainly integrating members of the former Soviet camp over the past two decades. However, did the West betray any promise?

The origin of the myth of betrayal

To understand the basics of Russian resentment, we must go back to February 9, 1990 During a meeting between US Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Discussion of the status of reunited Germany. In a speech in Brussels on May 17, NATO’s Secretary-General acknowledged that NATO would not extend the GDR to the promised territory.

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Finally, an agreement will be reached with Russia in September to allow NATO troops to stay beyond the “Iron Curtain”. But the deal is only about reunited Germany. And the expansion to the east is unthinkable in the context of time.

“The USSR still exists and the countries of Eastern Europe are still part of the Soviet structure, especially the Warsaw Pact, which will not be officially dissolved until July 1991,” notes Amelie Jima, a political scientist affiliated with the Thucydite Center (Pantheon). -Azas). “We can not talk about treason because the chain of events is difficult to predict, which will bring Europe to a new security framework.”

In short, when the West offers the “guarantees” that Vladimir Putin speaks of, no one can predict. The collapse of the Soviet Union And the upcoming historical upheavals.

>> See: 30 years after the fall of the Soviet Union: Ukrainians between the desire and longing for independence

“In addition, these promises were made orally and were never recorded in the agreement,” recalled Oliver Kemp, co-researcher at the Strategic Research Foundation. “The turning point in the expansion came much later, in 1995, and at the request of the countries of Eastern Europe.”

That year, NATO released a study on its expansion two years later, before beginning membership talks in 1999 with Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. A betrayal planned by the West. “Even within the US administration, some thought that NATO should not be expanded because it was less efficient, could dilute its capabilities and become a financial burden,” Amelie Jima explains.

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Now, Ukraine?

For years, the issue of NATO expansion has provoked tensions between the United States and its allies on one side and Russia on the other. In August 2008, Georgia’s Atlanticist ambitions, which had so far failed, partially triggered Moscow’s Blitzkrieg. As for the coalition’s anti-missile shield, which was unveiled in 2016 in Romania, a NATO member since 2004, it is considered a threat by the Kremlin.

In the face of Russian concerns, Western governments continue to hammer out the defensive business of the political-military alliance formed in 1949.

>> Read: Why Russia considers itself threatened by NATO

“It is difficult for the Russians to accept NATO expansion, but they have forgotten that they signed the NATO-Russia founding law in 1997, in which they become partners and promise peace and security in the Euro – Atlantic region.

Today, Moscow is reactivating its rhetoric of betrayal in the Ukrainian crisis by creating a new red line that does not allow Kiev to override NATO membership.

Ukraine currently has “allied state” status, which means it may one day be allowed to join the coalition. In fact, Kiev still has a long way to go to qualify.

“One of the key rules of the alliance is that the host countries must resolve all their border issues so as not to consolidate the crisis factor within the federation. Suffice it to say that we view Ukraine’s involvement with the conflict in Crimea as bad. NATO”, Olivier Kempf assures.

“Ukraine is not in the pre-merger plan because of problems in reforming the military, government, corruption, etc. Even the Americans are not in favor of it,” Amelie Jima slipped.

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On the other hand, NATO member states militarily support Ukraine on the basis of bilateral agreements.

Joe Biden On Thursday, Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated to his Ukrainian counterpart that the United States and its allies would respond “firmly” in the event of a Russian invasion. But NATO military intervention in Ukraine was rejected.

“NATO can support Ukraine, but within the limits of the text, so Article 5 can not be involved. [qui prévoit une intervention en cas d’attaque d’un pays membre] For the benefit of Ukraine, “recalled Olivier Kemp.” Everyone knows. Putin knows that. That’s why he plays. ” In its conflict with the United States.