The invasion of Ukraine’s appalling; rightly condemned and sanctions long overdue against Russian oligarchs. But there ultimately requires to be a political not military solution to avoid global catastrophe and a major part of discussions will be NATO expansion.
At the heart of that’s whether Russia or the former Soviet Union were given assurances by the west that they wouldn’t be surrounded, or their borders encroached upon.
That’s something other countries have demanded in past years such as the USA with the Cuban missile crisis or intervention in their “backyard” with “contras” in Nicaragua. Now I don’t like Putin, but if Ukraine joins NATO, it’s right on their doorstep not just in their backyard.
Now some say assurances were given and others say not. Even Gorbachev seems rather unclear. It’s complex as a recent article in Der Spiegel narrated. Discussions in 1990 between East and West see different recollections. Roland Dumas, French Foreign Minister states a pledge was given that NATO wouldn’t. However, James Baker, US Secretary of State denies that.
But as the article narrates there appears plenty evidence supporting the former interpretation. John Major on a visit to Moscow in 1991 promising with regard to Russian concerns about NATO that “nothing of the sort will happen”. Now, the UK Premier did go back on that in 1997 when NATO first expanded eastwards but as the article says “complained he was only doing so because the West had forced him to.”
Just as close to events was Jack Matlock who was US Ambassador in Moscow from 1987-91. He has written that in 1990 “Gorbachev was assured, though not in a formal treaty, that if a unified Germany was allowed to remain in NATO, there would be no movement of NATO jurisdiction to the east, “not one inch”. “
It seems clear that though a formal written agreement may not have been reached, assurances were given and more importantly Russia has good reason to believe that they were.
These are dangerous times as Russia’s a nuclear power and is feeling threatened. Let’s defend Ukrainian sovereignty but forsake NATO expansion.