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During the recent 2022 conflict in Ukraine and the diplomatic talks preceding it, the Russian government kept saying that there were promises made by the US and the west that NATO would not expand eastward, although it was never written down.

Even this recent video at 3:58 mentions memos and meeting minutes from US archives that say that such an agreement did occur.

So is there any written proof from these archives which can be linked here (other than simply quotes from government officials from the time)?

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2 Answers 2

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This is highly controversial. You will find retired officials on both sides in support of both the 'yes' and 'no' positions.

  • Germany acknowledges a promise not to allow NATO allies into the eastern German states, which they haven't. At the time this promise was made, the Baltic states were part of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact still existed.
  • Russia claims that an informal promise was made at the same time that should countries leave the WP and should the Soviet Union break up, there would be no expansion, either.
  • Afterwards, Russia signed agreements which accepted the expansion.
  • NATO and Russia agreed that there would be no major combat formations based permanently in the East. For this reason, the Enhanced Forward Presence rotates every few months.
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    So there is no obvious proof like something written or officially declared?
    – Trilarion
    Mar 9 at 7:03
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    @Trilarion, There were written assurances regarding East Germany which became a treaty and oral statements during the negotiations which didn't make it into the final declarations. An unwritten clarification, as Russia says, or a proposal which didn't make it into the text? Imagine negotiations between the EU and US which say 'Texas shall never join the EU.' That could almost be seen as an implicit recognition of Texan independence, don't you think? So Washington would never sign that.
    – o.m.
    Mar 9 at 11:21
  • "NATO and Russia agreed" in which exactly written agreement? "Informal promises" are likely not binding, and I cannot believe Russia was not sure that the promises must be printed on paper and signed to be the promises. Ribbentrop and Molotov did better in 1939.
    – Stančikas
    Aug 27 at 18:29
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    Writes "The Act has no impact on NATO enlargement". But anyway I remove the downvote, who wants can just read that document now
    – Stančikas
    Aug 28 at 7:29
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    @o.m. failure to adhere to written promises is more than just reputation loss. Insurance contracts can be drawn based on promises in treaties. If the treaties are not followed, this can result in legally-enforceable insurance claims, or similar enforcement of derivative contractual obligations. No such contracts can be derived from voiced opinions (which do not covenant anything).
    – wrod
    Sep 1 at 22:26
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At least acording to a document that was shortly published in german "Der Spiegel" such promis to not extend NATO was made. It can be read in this article. The document shows US, UK, French, and German officials discussing a pledge made to Moscow that NATO would not expand to Poland and beyond.

The picture of that document:

enter image description here

Some quotes of important statements which were made during that miting:

"We made it clear to the Soviet Union - in the 2+4 talks, as well as in other negotiations - that we do not intend to benefit from the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe," the document quotes US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Canada Raymond Seitz.

"NATO should not expand to the east, either officially or unofficially," Seitz added.

A British representative also mentions the existence of a "general agreement" that membership of NATO for eastern European countries is "unacceptable."

"We had made it clear during the 2+4 negotiations that we would not extend NATO beyond the Elbe [sic]," said West German diplomat Juergen Hrobog. "We could not therefore offer Poland and others membership in NATO."

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    That does not show that a promise was made, just that it was discussed in a meeting. Not to mention that meeting was with the Soviet Union and not Russia. It should also be noted that Russia agreed as party of a treaty they singed for turning over nuclear weapons and it is clear that they broke that agreement.
    – Joe W
    Aug 30 at 18:02
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    Interesting how these useful reporters publish these documents just days before their feeder prepares to invade another country. Aug 30 at 18:31
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    @Vladimir F Can you give any evidence that "Der Spiegel" is controled by Russia?
    – convert
    Aug 30 at 18:41
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    @JoeW ""We had made it clear during the 2+4 negotiations that we would not extend NATO beyond the Elbe [sic]," said West German diplomat Juergen Hrobog. <--- you don't consider this a promise?
    – Allure
    Aug 31 at 1:51
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    @Allure Not really when it is a small bit of text from a single source that doesn't include any details of what took place in those talks. Just because you say something during talks doesn't mean you are making a promise of doing anything.
    – Joe W
    Aug 31 at 2:18

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