A document from the British National Archives that was resurfaced in a report by the German newspaper Der Spiegel reveals that the Soviet Union was promised NATO wouldn’t expand eastward during negotiations at the end of the Cold War.
The document is the minutes of a meeting between foreign ministry officials from the US, France, Germany, and Britain in Bonn, Germany, on March 6th, 1991. Officials referenced the “two plus four” negotiations that were held with the Soviet Union in 1990 to reunify East and West Germany.
“We made it clear in the two plus four negotiations that we would not expand NATO beyond the Elbe. We can therefore not offer NATO membership to Poland and the others,” German diplomat Jürgen Chrobog said at the 1991 meeting.
The French, US, and British officials also agreed on the issue of NATO expansion, including Raymond Seitz, who served as the US assistant secretary of state for Canada and Europe at the time.
“We have made it clear to the Soviet Union in two plus four talks and elsewhere that we will not take advantage of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe,” Seitz said, according to the document.
The document was previously classified and was discovered by Joshua Shifrinson, an international relations professor at Boston University.
The document bolsters Russia’s case that it was promised NATO wouldn’t expand eastward after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. NATO has grown from 16 members to 30 and has absorbed several former Soviet states, including some that border Russia.
The promise was never part of an official treaty, which is why Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking written guarantees that Ukraine and Georgia won’t ever join the alliance.