Letter: Russian myth of `betrayal by Nato'

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The Independent Online
Sir: Andrei Olenin writes (letter, 19 February) that "the post- German unification process has shown that Nato reneged on its pledge not to expand eastwards after the Warsaw Pact's dissolution. Why should we believe Nato this time?"

In the "German unification process", Soviet fears were certainly addressed by a treaty commitment that the only forces stationed in former East Germany would be "German units of territorial defence which are not integrated into alliance structures" (Keesing's Record of World Events, 37717). Has this been violated?

The treaty contained no clauses relative to the Warsaw Pact's dissolution, since that was not then internationally assumed - indeed the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty then being negotiated was based on the principle of force parity (within Europe) between Nato and the Warsaw Pact, the assumption being that both would continue, though "no longer adversaries".

The Pact was, however, falling to pieces, and it formally decided in February 1991 on the early dissolution of its military structures. That month Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary sought "total integration into the European political, economic, security and legislative order", which, they soon made clear, they took to include Nato membership.

Nato thus had to respond to the wish of many ex-Warsaw Pact members to join. It was initially cool: foreign ministers declared in June 1991 that "we will not seek unilateral advantage from the changed situation in Europe nor threaten the legitimate interests of any state", and in October Nato officials are reported as stating that the organisation was "not prepared to entertain the notion of membership" for ex-Warsaw Pact countries (Keesing's, 38313, 38554).

Half a decade later there has been a reversal of this attitude, and one can argue as to whether or not the change was wise. But I am not sure that it equates with the reneging on a "pledge", as claimed by Mr Olenin. Perhaps he has further justification. But to a casual observer, it looks rather as if a potentially dangerous "Western betrayal" myth is building.


St Edmund Hall, Oxford