NATO ‘Never Promised’ Not to Expand Eastward (Novaya Gazeta, Russia)
Critical thinking in the Russian print media is certainly not dead. Here are two columns recently translated from the Russian press that run counter to the Kremlin narrative. First, NATO ‘Never Promised’ Not to Expand Eastward from the Novaya Gazeta, and then Ukraine Crisis: Russia Cannot Dispense with the Dollar from the Komsomolskaya Pravda.
So did NATO ever promise the Kremlin never to expand eastward to the border of the Soviet Union – now Russia? The question has taken on added significance, as charges of Western encroachment form the basis of Russia’s defense in grabbing Crimea. For Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, which incidentally is partly owned by Mikhail Gorbachev, in an article headlined NATO ‘Never Promised’ Not to Expand Eastward, columnist Alexander Chursin writes that although the West sought to tamp down Soviet fears of expansion, no evidence of such a promise exists, and that if any Russian politicians have such evidence, he implores them to come forward now:
Without coordinating his comments with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his advisers, at the Evangelical Academy in the village of Tutzing on January 31, 1990, Genscher made a speech in which he clearly stated that “the expansion of NATO into territories to the east, up to the borders of the Soviet Union, which is the fear behind the formation of the Warsaw Pact, will never happen.”
Neither U.S. Secretary of States James Baker nor West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher interpreted anything said during negotiations [with the Soviets] as a promise to the Kremlin not to expand NATO to the east. During an interview with Der Spiegel in 2009, the former German foreign minister noted that with that early speech, he was only testing the ground in anticipation of actual negotiations. In addition he said that the formula they invented had a rather short lifespan.
Even the most farsighted politician couldn’t then have foreseen what happened, in terms of history, in an instant: in East Europe, communist regimes collapsed one after the other, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist. There was a vacuum in the system of international security. In this situation, for the young Eastern European democracies, NATO was a more natural and attractive partner that their old ally in Moscow.
Then, in another contrarian column headlined Ukraine Crisis: Russia Cannot Dispense with the Dollar, Komsomolskaya Pravda columnist Georgiy Bovt writes that writes that trying to punish the United States for sanctions being imposed over Ukraine by outlawing dollar-denominated financial transactions would be self destructive and counterproductive for Russia, and would cause an explosion on the black currency market, among other things:
“There has been discussion about whether we could punish America by refusing to settle bills and accounts in dollars by using rubles instead, and by selling off ‘enemy’ American bonds. … As for transitioning to payments in rubles for our exports (in particular energy exports), if we were to stand on principle, we would be ‘cutting off our nose to spite Uncle Sam’s face.’ … The results of our own actions would surpass the most malicious intentions of those now preparing economic sanctions against our country.”
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