News Release

Documents Show U.S. Violated Assurances to Moscow About Limiting NATO


The National Security Archives this week released documents relating to assurances the USSR was given regarding NATO expansion.

The group states in “NATO Expansion: What Gorbachev Heard“: “U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous ‘not one inch eastward’ assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German unification in 1990 and on into 1991, according to declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents posted today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.”

NATO has expanded in the years since to include ten more countries, including Poland, Hungary, the Baltic states, and others. NATO now reaches the Russian border.

JOSHUA SHIFRINSON, jrishifrinson at, @shifrinson
Shifrinson is assistant professor at the Bush School of Government, Texas A&M University.

He wrote the award-winning academic article “Deal or No Deal? The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Offer to Limit NATO Expansion.” He also wrote the Los Angeles Times op-ed “Russia’s got a point: The U.S. broke a NATO promise.” See here.

He said today: “The National Security Archive materials reinforce the point that Soviet — and subsequent Russian — leaders had major reasons to believe NATO expansion was not going to occur in the post-Cold War era. The bargaining surrounding German reunification involved not just diplomatic reassurances, on the American side, but a series of seemingly-significant steps to make these pledges appear credible. There are also reasons to think the U.S. privately intended to be able to expand NATO in the post-Cold War power vacuum if and when leaders wanted — leveraging U.S. dominance after the Cold War — but this was not (of course) communicated to the Soviets.”

Shifrinson’s forthcoming book is Rising Titans, Falling Giants: Rising States and the Fate of Declining Great Powers (Cornell University Press).