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US, UK, France promised USSR not to expand NATO east of Germany, newly discovered document proves

Notes from a 1991 meeting prove that the US, UK, France, and Germany assured the Soviet Union that NATO would not expand east. It’s part of a growing body of evidence that the West broke its promise to Russia.

NATO summit 2022

(Se puede leer este artículo en español aquí.)

A newly discovered document provides more evidence that Western governments broke their promise not to expand NATO eastward after German reunification.

Notes from a 1991 meeting between top US, British, French, and German officials confirm that there was a “general agreement that membership of NATO and security guarantees [are] unacceptable” for Central and Eastern Europe.

Germany’s diplomatic representative emphasized that the Soviet Union was promised in 1990 that “we would not extend NATO beyond the Elbe” river, in eastern Germany.

The document, which was formerly classified as secret, comes from the British National Archives.

It was made widely known this February by the German newspaper Der Spiegel, but was actually first published by US political scientist Joshua Shifrinson in 2019.

Joshu Shifrinson NATO expansion document

The document describes a meeting between senior officials from the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany in the city of Bonn on March 6, 1991.

The subject of the gathering was “Security in Central and Eastern Europe.”

German diplomat Jürgen Chrobog is quoted in the notes saying, “We had made it clear during the 2+4 negotiations that we would not extend NATO beyond the Elbe. We could not therefore offer membership of NATO to Poland and the others.”

The 2+4 negotiations were talks in 1990 that allowed for the reunification of Germany, featuring capitalist West Germany and socialist East Germany (the 2) along with the United States, Soviet Union, Britain, and France (the 4).

Chrobog’s comments in the notes, therefore, confirm that the Western powers had promised the USSR in 1990 that they would not expand NATO eastward after German reunification.

Further clarifying this fact, the document adds that there was a “general agreement that membership of NATO and security guarantees [are] unacceptable” for countries east of Germany.

NATO expansion document promise UK US Germany

NATO has added 14 member states east of Germany since end of First Cold War

Since the end of the First Cold War and the overthrow of the Soviet Union,14 countries in Central and Eastern Europe have joined the US-led NATO military alliance – all countries east of Germany, in flagrant violation of the promise not to expand.

In 1999, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland joined NATO.

In 2004, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined as well.

In 2009, Albania and Croatia joined.

In 2017, Montenegro joined.

In 2020, North Macedonia joined.

NATO has also discussed the possibility of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine joining in the future.

In December 2021, the Russian Federation demanded that NATO agree to a series of security guarantees, including a promise not to add any more members. The United States and NATO rejected Moscow’s demands.

NATO expansion map

A map of NATO expansion

More evidence that NATO broke its promise not to expand east of Germany

The newly discovered 1991 diplomatic record is part of a growing body of evidence that the Russian government’s accusation that NATO broke its promise is indeed correct.

As Geopolitical Economy Report previously noted, declassified documents from the governments of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and the former Soviet Union and Russian Federation prove that NATO pledged not to expand east.

The National Security Archive at George Washington University in Washington, DC published records showing that US Secretary of State James Baker reassured Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev “not once, but three times” that NATO would expand “not one inch eastward,” in a February 9, 1990 meeting.

Baker admitted that “not only for the Soviet Union but for other European countries as well it is important to have guarantees that if the United States keeps its presence in Germany within the framework of NATO, not an inch of NATO’s present military jurisdiction will spread in an eastern direction.”



  1. 7swordMary

    2022-02-21 at 00:09

    Thank You Ben for verifying this! I recalled hearing of such an agreement but could not recall the title. And all other current reporters are claiming it was Verbal ONLY.

  2. jlalbrecht

    2022-02-22 at 11:24

    Saved for future reference. People constantly talk about how we can’t trust [fill in country/leader the US doesn’t like], and therefore justify sanctions and/or a coup. Yet here we see a clear conspiracy (not in the legal definition) of NATO members led by the US, to threaten Russia.

  3. Carl

    2022-03-02 at 07:44

    US can never be trusted from the very beginning of mankind. Never do business with Americans.

    • Tom Roche

      2022-03-22 at 15:40

      (Ben Norton: correct me if wrong in the following.)

      Carl: regarding your instructions to

      > Never do business with Americans.

      Are you aware that the author of the article on which you commented is an American citizen? Or did you intend some irony that I’m missing?

  4. Horst Rudolf

    2023-08-26 at 14:09

    What an old coffee….
    every old German (and also US) diplomat at this time (like me) can confirm that we (e.g. FM Genscher) strongly promised to the Soviets exactly what is said in above text.
    Without this promise – and Russian trust in us – they would never have retracted their thousands of tanks from Eastern Germany and allow us to unite the two parts. What Blinken says is like denying Holocaust or Cheney’s “weapons of mass destruction” in Irak – all blunt lies.
    (I am a former ambassador and speaker in German government, BTW)

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