How America Double-Crossed Russia and Shamed the West

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at

The conditionality of the Soviet Union’s agreement to allow East Germany to be taken by West Germany and for the Cold War to end, was that NATO would not expand “one inch to the east.” This was the agreement that was approved by the Russian President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, a great man and a subsequent hero to democrats around the world. He agreed then to end the Soviet Union and abandon communism and thus to end the entire Cold War; he agreed to this because he had been promised that NATO would expand not “one inch to the east,” or “one inch eastward,” depending upon how the promise was translated and understood — but it has the same meaning, no matter how it was translated. He trusted American President George Herbert Walker Bush, whose friend and Secretary of State James Baker made this promise to Gorbachev. With this promise, Gorbachev agreed to end the Soviet Union; end the communist mutual-defense pact which was their own equivalent of NATO, the Warsaw Pact; and he believed that the remaining nation that he would then be leading, which was Russia, would be accepted as being a Western democracy. He was even promised by the United States that “we were going to make them a member [of NATO], we were–observer first and then a member.” In other words: the U.S. promised that NATO would not extend up to the borders of Russia and so become a mortal threat to the national security of the Russian people — now isolated and separated from its former military allies. Instead, Gorbachev was told, Russia would itself become welcomed into the Western Alliance, and ultimately become a NATO member. That was the deal, ending the 46-year Cold War.

Russia kept its part of the bargain. The United States did not; the U.S. instead lied through its teeth and so has since expanded NATO to absorb former member-nations of the Warsaw Pact into NATO as being, now, an anti-Russian military alliance — exactly what the U.S. had promised would never happen. U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush in private told West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (who had wanted to go along with what James Baker had arranged): “To hell with that! We prevailed, they didn’t.” He didn’t want peace with Russia; he wanted to conquer it; he wanted to rub Russians’ noses in their inferiority to Americans.

Russia’s continued (and continuing) desire to join NATO has simply been spurned. This is war by NATO in intent; it is the exact opposite of what the U.S. had promised to Russia, on the basis of which the Warsaw Pact ended. How can the Russian people then trust such a country as the United States? They would need to be fools to do so.

But this deceit, this double-cross, isn’t merely  America’s shame; it has also become the shame by the entirety of the nations that joined in that Western promise at the time. Because all of them accepted America’s leadership in this double-crossing war against Russia, America’s war to conquer Russia. They accept this merely by remaining as members of the now-nefarious military gang, which NATO has thus become. Worse yet, some of the other member-nations of NATO at the time were (like West Germany’s Kohl, who was the model for his protégé Angela Merkel, who now continues the crime) themselves key participants in the making, and now breaking, of that promise to Russia.

Here is the evidence regarding this massive and ongoing historical international crime — the crime that’s now the source of so much misery and even death in not only Russia but the rest of Europe, and of millions of refugees fleeing from Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and other former Russian-allied nations — the chaos that’s being led by America:


“I was there when we told the Russians that we were going to make them a member, we were–observer first and then a member”: Lawrence Wilkerson, 3 October 2014, on The Real News Network, at 18:54 in the interview.

“When I spoke with Baker, he agreed that he told Gorbachev that if the Soviet Union allowed German reunification and membership in NATO, the West would not expand NATO “one inch to the east”: Bill Bradley, 22 August 2009, in Foreign Policy.

“Mr. Kohl chose to echo Mr. Baker, not Mr. Bush. The chancellor assured Mr. Gorbachev, as Mr. Baker had done, that ‘naturally NATO could not expand its territory’ into East Germany” … Crucially, the Gorbachev-Kohl meeting ended with a deal, as opposed to the Gorbachev-Baker session the previous day. … Mr. Kohl and his aides publicized this major concession immediately at a press conference. Then they returned home to begin merging the two Germanys under one currency and economic system: Mary Elise Sarotte, New York Times, 29 November 2009.

“According to records from Kohl’s office, the chancellor chose to echo Baker, not Bush, since Baker’s softer line was more likely to produce the results that Kohl wanted: permission from Moscow to start reunifying Germany. Kohl thus assured Gorbachev that ‘naturally NATO could not expand its territory to the current territory of [East Germany].’ In parallel talks, Genscher delivered the same message to his Soviet counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, saying, ‘for us, it stands firm: NATO will not expand itself to the East.’ … But Kohl’s phrasing would quickly become heresy among the key Western decision-makers. Once Baker got back to Washington, in mid-February 1990, he fell in line with the National Security Council’s view and adopted its position. From then on, members of Bush’s foreign policy team exercised strict message discipline, making no further remarks about NATO holding at the 1989 line. Kohl, too, brought his rhetoric in line with Bush’s, as both U.S. and West German transcripts from the two leaders’ February 24–25 summit at Camp David show. Bush made his feelings about compromising with Moscow clear to Kohl: ‘To hell with that!’ he said. ‘We prevailed, they didn’t.’ … In April, Bush spelled out this thinking in a confidential telegram to French President François Mitterrand. … Bush was making it clear to Mitterrand that the dominant security organization in a post–Cold War Europe had to remain NATO — not any kind of pan-European alliance. As it happened, the next month, Gorbachev proposed just such a pan-European arrangement, one in which a united Germany would join both NATO and the Warsaw Pact, thus creating one massive security institution. Gorbachev even raised the idea of having the Soviet Union join NATO. ‘You say that NATO is not directed against us, that it is simply a security structure that is adapting to new realities,’ Gorbachev told Baker in May, according to Soviet records. ‘Therefore, we propose to join NATO.’ Baker refused to consider such a notion, replying dismissively, Pan-European security is a dream.’ … By the time of the Camp David summit, … all members of Bush’s team, along with Kohl, had united behind an offer in which Gorbachev would receive financial assistance from West Germany — and little else — in exchange for allowing Germany to reunify and for allowing a united Germany to be part of NATO”: Mary Elise Sarotte, Foreign Affairs, October 2014.

“A failure to appreciate how the Cold War ended has had a profound impact on Russian and Western attitudes — and helps explain what we are seeing now. The common assumption that the West forced the collapse of the Soviet Union and thus won the Cold War is wrong. The fact is that the Cold War ended by negotiation to the advantage of both sides. At the December 1989 Malta summit, Mikhail Gorbachev and President George H.W. Bush confirmed that the ideological basis for the war was gone, stating that the two nations no longer regarded each other as enemies. Over the next two years, we worked more closely with the Soviets than with even some of our allies. … ‘By the grace of God, America won the Cold War,’ Bush said during his 1992 State of the Union address. That rhetoric would not have been particularly damaging on its own. But it was reinforced by actions taken under the next three presidents. President Bill Clinton supported NATO’s bombing of Serbia without U.N. Security Council approval and the expansion of NATO to include former Warsaw Pact countries. Those moves seemed to violate the understanding that the United States would not take advantage of the Soviet retreat from Eastern Europe. The effect on Russians’ trust in the United States was devastating”: Jack Matlock, Washington Post, 14 March 2014.

“Sir Rodric Braithwaite GCMG, former British Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Russia, informed us that assurances were given in 1990 by the US (James Baker, US Secretary of State) and Germany (Helmut Kohl, German Chancellor), and in 1991 on behalf of the UK (by the then Prime Minister, John Major, and the British Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd) and France (by French President Francois Mitterrand). Sir Rodric Braithwaite said that this ‘factual record has not been successfully challenged in the West’”: The EU and Russia: before and beyond the crisis in Ukraine, 20 February 2015, British House of Lords, paragraph 107.


Gorbachev’s failure to demand these assurances in writing has been widely criticized, but handshake agreements in international affairs are common, and no treaty was to be signed at the end of the Cold War because it hadn’t been a hot war: there were no claims, no restitution or reparations to be paid by either side to the other. Gorbachev thought that the U.S. was honest and could be trusted — that understandings reached in private and witnessed by numerous participants would be honored by the West, as they would be by Russia.

Sadly, he was trusting mega-crooks who were led by a super-gangster, G.H.W. Bush, and the entire world is suffering from those crooks today, and every day. Instead of the West apologizing, and stopping, it insults Russia constantly. It’s digging in deeper, into G.H.W. Bush’s original sin, the West’s mega-crime, which produces increasing global chaos and bloodshed, in Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere, and now a resulting refugee crisis throughout Europe.

For example, Defense News, the trade journal for U.S. military contractors, headlined on 4 September 2015, “Ukraine’s New Military Doctrine Identifies Russia As Aggressor, Eyes Naval Acquisitions,” and reported that:

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk [whom Victoria Nuland of the U.S. State Department had appointed on 4 February 2014, 18 days before the coup] said that the country’s new draft military doctrine is the first in Ukraine’s history to clearly identify Russia as an enemy and an aggressor. The announcement was made Sept. 1 during the prime minister’s visit to Odessa. … Yatsenyuk said that … the Ukrainian President “will sign the corresponding decree.” … Vice Admiral James Foggo, commander of the US 6th Fleet, and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt [who took instructions from Nuland and ran the coup for her] took part in the ceremony. … “We feel as one force with our partners, NATO [member] states, with our American partners. Therefore, the American ships have entered and will [defeat the Russians in Crimea and expell from the naval base there the Russian navy which has been headquartered there since 1783, and so] enter the Ukrainian territorial waters in the future. We will continue our joint exercise,” Yatsenyuk said.

It’s a criminal gang. Worse: it’s a self-righteous criminal gang, which accuses its victims.


James Baker, at the start of 1990, tells Gorbachev that NATO will move “not one inch to the east.” Mitterrand & Kohl second that.

Then, in secret: 24 February 1990, GHW Bush tells Baker and Mitterrand and Kohl, “To hell with that. We prevailed, they didn’t”

Then, Gorbachev, from whom that statement by Bush was hidden, proposes that Russia become admitted into NATO.


Address by Secretary General, Manfred Wörner to the Bremer Tabaks Collegium, Brussels, 17 May 1990, which includes this:

Our strategy and our Alliance are exclusively defensive. They threaten no-one, neither today nor tomorrow. We will never be the first to use our weapons. We are prepared for radical disarmament, right down to the minimum level that we must retain to guarantee our security.

This will also be true of a united Germany in NATO. The very fact that we are ready not to deploy NATO troops beyond the territory of the Federal Republic gives the Soviet Union firm security guarantees. Moreover we could conceive of a transitional period during which a reduced number of Soviet forces could remain stationed in the present-day GDR. This will meet Soviet concerns about not changing the overall East-West strategic balance. Soviet politicians are wrong to claim that German membership of NATO will lead to instability. The opposite is true. Europe including the Soviet Union would gain stability. It would also gain a genuine partner in the West ready to cooperate.

We have left behind us the old friend/foe mind-set and the confrontational outlook. We do not need enemies nor threat perceptions. We do not look upon the Soviet Union as the enemy. We want that nation to become our partner in ensuring security. On the other hand, we expect the Soviet Union not to see us as a military pact directed against it or even threatening it. Instead we wish the Soviet Union to see our Alliance as an open and cooperative instrument of stability in an over-arching European security system. We are not proposing something to the Soviet Union which is against its interests. What we have to offer can only be to its advantage. I am confident that this insight will gradually gain ground in Moscow, especially as the other Warsaw Pact countries see things the same way as we do.

The promise to Gorbachev continued, and was presented there in public, even after Bush had already privately told his agents that it would be a lie. The lie continued, until Gorbachev had acted upon its assurances to such an extent that the break-up of the USSR and end of the Warsaw Pact were irreversible.

And that is how we got to where we are today.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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  • Brockland A.T.

    The show is just beginning.

    An unprecedented sandstorm has hit the Middle East, as result of the unnaturally warm temperatures affecting the region. Coincidentally, for over a week in advance we have been warned of a ‘Russian buildup’ in Syria.

    This suggests HAARP weather manipulation, or something very much like it. The sandstorm is unnaturally large, intense, and out of season.

    The sandstorm has grounded the Syrian air force, Syria’s only real advantage over the DAESH. The DAESH are taking full advantage, and appear to have significant forces built up for just such a push. Of the two hot battles, the battle for Deir Ezzor is the most critical, as Deir Ezzor controls a direct highway link to Damascus.

    Of secondary importance is the fall of al-Dhuour airbase in Idlib province, completing the fall of that region and setting the stage for attacks into Latakia and eventual isolation and seizure of the ports of Tartus and Latakia from Damascus. Securing the coast is nearly as important as securing Deir Ezzor.

    Moving against Latakia will place the DAESH directly in conflict with Russian garrisons in the ports of Latakia and Tartous, and perhaps forward-based advisors.

    Note that the Russians were already there. As in Crimea, the Russians already had a standing garrison in Syria protecting its naval base. It is this longstanding presence that is being presented as an escalation by Russia, when it is really the DAESH intending to do the escalating and likely to invite Russian defensive action.

  • tom

    This is the same George H W Bush who reacted, according to Wikipedia, like this to the USS Vincennes’ shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 – a far worse crime than the shooting down of MH17, which may have been accidental.

    ‘George H. W. Bush, the vice president of the United States at the time
    commented on the incident during a presidential campaign function (2 Aug
    1988): “I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care
    what the facts are… I’m not an apologize-for-America kind of guy.”‘

    A clear picture of Mr Bush emerges from the two statements, and it’s not a pretty picture. He doesn’t care about facts, promises, laws, or obligations. All he cares about is that the USA should win.

    If anyone can slide a sheet of paper between that moral posture and those of the Nazi leaders, I’d be interested to hear how.

  • APRIL 02, 2014 NATO Plans Global Dominance ‘NATO’ Plans Global Dominance

    NATO was established in April 1949. It’s a US imperial tool. It’s been this way from inception. Washington provides the lion’s share of funding. It’s around 75%. Claiming a NATO “political and military alliance for peace and security” doesn’t wash. It never did. It’s polar opposite truth. NATO’s mission is offense, not defense.

  • John V. Walsh

    The problem with this strange condemnation of Bush I as the source of the New Cold War is that Jack Matlock in his book, Superpower Illusions, clearly identifies the shift in U.S. policy toward Russia with the Clintons not Bush I.
    That fact is now crucial with the belligerent, bloodthirsty Killary set to assume power.
    Zuesse comes across as an apologist for the Dems here – as in his book on Dem domestic economic achievements.

    • cettel

      Matlock’s recollections of his limited involvement in the entire process constitutes no evidence regarding whether or not Bush said to Kohl, “To hell with that. We prevailed, they didn’t.” Matlock might not even have been present on that occasion. You are falsely assuming that every account regarding every detail of the total history is equally valid regarding each detail of the account.

      This came from the written records at the time (no mere recollection from someone who probably wasn’t even present on that occasion when Bush said this), the records of Helmut Kohl. In other words: After Gorbachev had been deceived by Bush’s agents, people who presumably believed at the time what they were telling Gorbachev (which is what Bush told them to tell him), they were instructed that, from now on, you are to adhere to different instructions, “We prevailed, they didn’t.” They (Baker, Mitterrand, and Kohl) had to do their boss’s bidding. And they did. And Bill Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama, have been doing the follow-through with that lie, ever since.

  • K. Chris C.

    The Khazarians and their banksters have plundered their war dog, the US, to the bone. Now, after instituting an artificially high dollar, and keeping the US stock markets propped up, they are fleeing back to Europe.

    They are laying their typical groundwork in Europe–chaos with “immigration,” wars, and rumors of war, against Europe’s neighbors.

    The Khazarians have once last destructive scheme in store for we Americans, another destructive war, this time with Iran. This time they will have their US war dog nuking Iran so as to further make America a visible pariah of the world, and to assure Zionist and Israeli hegemony.

    An American citizen, not US subject.

  • rtj1211

    George HW Bush was Director of the CIA, a global drug lord who ran Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan and promoted Afghanistan as the world centre of heroin production, brutally ensuring the junkification of parts of the USA to fund the CIA’s unregulated activities.

    He did the same with General Manuel Noriega in Nicaragua and double crossed him, the same as Gorbachev.

    He ran Saddam Hussein as a CIA asset in Iraq, turning a blind eye to chemical and biological weapons sales from US companies to the dictator and didn’t really have much to say about those weapons being used against Iran. Hussein was ‘America’s man’, so anything went.

    I realise Mr Gorbachev had to deal with the US President, but he would have done better to have done proper due diligence on his opponent and realised that anyone who is a drug dealer and who callously sacrifices American lives to fund the CIA is surely someone whose word is something to be treated as the word of a snake oil salesman……..??