A Broken Promise?

What the West Really Told Moscow About NATO Expansion

No backsies: Gorbachev and Bush at the White House, June 1990. AP / Ron Edmonds

Twenty-five years ago this November, an East German Politburo member bungled the announcement of what were meant to be limited changes to travel regulations, thereby inspiring crowds to storm the border dividing East and West Berlin. The result was the iconic moment marking the point of no return in the end of the Cold War: the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the months that followed, the United States, the Soviet Union, and West Germany engaged in fateful negotiations over the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the reunification of Germany. Although these talks eventually resulted in German reunification on October 3, 1990, they also gave rise to a later, bitter dispute between Russia and the West. What, exactly, had been agreed about the future of NATO? Had the United States formally promised the Soviet Union that the alliance would not expand eastward as part of the deal?

Even more than two decades

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