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It was, IMO, in part, the Clinton Administration taking the opportunity to posture as tough on security and standing up for the formerly oppressed to keep them from falling back under foreign (Russian) domination and part of the price for the Wall Street support his administration had received. The first part goes back to the old 'soft on Communism' accusation, 'soft on defense', 'who lost China' BS that has long come from the right. Bush 41, Jim Baker and that administration pretty much kept their promises to Gorbachev. I don't know if Clinton and his top people knew or cared about the possibility of a better world that George Kennan was so passionately trying to defend. It is also part of the problem of relying on key foreign affairs advisers such as Madeline Albright and Zbig who could not help but see the world significantly in the light of the fates of Poland and Czechoslovakia. Then there were the appropriate ethnic minorities involved who needed to be kept in the fold. In the US politics often starts at the border. It is so much easier to scapegoat people who are not constituents.

Ironically, the line the attendees at Clinton's first nomination came away chanting "Without vision the people perish!" and this was a massive failure of vision.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Mar 6th, 2015 at 11:04:15 PM EST
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The issue of Baker's promise (or should I say 'promise') was definitely lost in transition from Bush to Clinton. Washington didn't think much of it anyway, it was more of a tactical step to move forward with the German reunification plan and win Soviet approval. It was Moscow's error not to get that in writing, it would add more credence to their case.

The whole 'what of America in Europe' debate grew rapidly with the Bob Dole's attacks on Clinton regarding Bosnian War sometime during and after 1993, asking for heavy American involvement. Clinton's response, in effect, was to promote NATO as a vehicle for America's involvement and in parallel to that to tap the Eastern European immigrants' votes for '96 election. With passivity of EU on the security matters and the mood in Czech Republic and Poland, it was almost a perfect storm for the NATO to start moving to the East.

by Prospero on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 04:25:23 AM EST
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I think this harping about the supposed promise is pretty pointless. Even if there was one, the EU would have expanded to the east anyway and russia would then haven been unhappy about that.

And there surely never was a "no eastern EU enlargement" promise.

by IM on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 05:11:12 AM EST
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I tend to agree that the Russian insistence in that issue is not on solid grounds.

From what I've read on the matter (and it's way more that few journo articles) it is hard to say whether the American 'promise' was given for E. Germany or for E. Europe as a whole, and either way it was never put through relevant paperwork and transformed into solid deal. Even if it was blatant lie, which it probably wasn't since Baker at the time had no vision on NATO's expansion, an even if Genscher was more direct on the same matter, Russians came of more as a sore losers than anything else.

In the end one could easily point the finger at Gorbachev and Shevardnadze for not doing their jobs on that matter. Very poor statecraft performance from that lot.

by Prospero on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 10:51:22 AM EST
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Can't argue that the Russians has good statecraft there, but, still, it was an opportunity we walked away from. However, that was inevitable once the 'shock doctrine' crew got to work in Russia for Wall Street. But almost all of my current understanding of economics and, especially finance and development, has only come since 2008, so I had few clues as to what was afoot.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 02:50:26 PM EST
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Spiegel has a (far as I can tell) good write-up on it. The ending:

NATO's Eastward Expansion: Calming Russian Fears - SPIEGEL ONLINE

In late May 1990, Gorbachev finally agreed to a unified Germany joining NATO. But why didn't Gorbachev and Shevardnadze get the West's commitments in writing at a time when they still held all the cards? "The Warsaw Pact still existed at the beginning of 1990," Gorbachev says today. "Merely the notion that NATO might expand to include the countries in this alliance sounded completely absurd at the time."

Some leading Western politicians were under the impression that the Kremlin leader and his foreign minister were ignoring reality and, as Baker said, were "in denial" about the demise of the Soviet Union as a major power.

On the other hand, the Baltic countries were still part of the Soviet Union, and NATO membership seemed light years away. And in some parts of Eastern Europe, peace-oriented dissidents were now in power, men like then-Czech President Vaclav Havel who, if he had had his way, would not only have dissolved the Warsaw Pact, but NATO along with it.

No Eastern European government was striving to join NATO in that early phase, and the Western alliance had absolutely no interest in taking on new members. It was too expensive, an unnecessary provocation of Moscow and, if worse came to worst, did the Western governments truly expect French, Italian or German soldiers to risk their lives for Poland and Hungary?

Then, in 1991, came the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the war in Bosnia, with its hundred thousand dead, raised fears of a Balkanization of Eastern Europe. And in the United States President Bill Clinton, following his inauguration in 1993, was searching for a new mission for the Western alliance.

Suddenly everyone wanted to join NATO, and soon NATO wanted to accept everyone.

The dispute over history was about to begin.

by fjallstrom on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 04:36:33 PM EST
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How quickly we forget the zeitgeist of an earlier era, and thus the conclusions which naturally follow there from. Plus, at that time, much of my knowledge of modern Germany were based on the very first edition of Geoffrey Barraclough's "Orgins of Modern Germany", which really started with a single short summary of the developments prior to the emergence of Prussia and then proceeded to describe the subsequent process of accretion for a brief to the Imperial War College in
Britain during WW II. I had found a copy of this in the Oklahoma State University library, while History was only my second minor subject and was fascinated. (I would very much like to find a copy as it is vastly different from the later editions.) The rest of my then knowledge of German history was from the course work I had in Russian, French and English 'national history course sequences. Add to that the fact that I was working 60+ hours a week and had a pre-school child at home, often missed the evening news on TV and primarily relied on the LA Times, which, at the time, had a fairly good foreign news section. Even so, little of what was in the Spiegel article was covered in any detail, mostly just the fact of the conferences.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 08:02:47 PM EST
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