On 14 April 2014 NATO issued a "fact sheet" titled, "Russia's Accusations -- setting the record straight." In the course of setting the record straight, the NATO fact sheet made the following false assertion: "Russian officials claim that US and German officials promised in 1990 that NATO would not expand into Eastern and Central Europe, build military infrastructure near Russia's borders or permanently deploy troops there."
"No such pledge was made, and no evidence to back up Russia's claims has ever been produced." (My emphasis.)
We know that this assertion by NATO is false, thanks to a 26 November 2009 article in Der Spiegel that claimed: "On Feb. 10, 1990, between 4 and 6:30 p.m., [German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich] Genscher spoke with [Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard] Shevardnadze. And, according to the German record of the conversation, which was only recently declassified, Genscher said: 'We are aware that NATO membership for a unified Germany raises complicated questions. For us, however, one thing is certain: NATO will not expand to the east.' And because the conversation revolved mainly around East Germany, Genscher added explicitly: 'As far as the non-expansion of NATO is concerned, this also applies in general.'"
Mr. Genscher's assurance to Shevardnadze was similar to one made earlier to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev by U.S. Secretary of State James Baker. Mr. Gorbachev knows that such a pledge was made -- and so does the former American ambassador to the Soviet Union, Jack Matlock.
Thus, this egregious error in the NATO fact sheet suggests either a lie or incompetent research. A deliberate lie seems more probable, given that the NATO fact sheet immediately thereafter used weasel words to deflect attention from the lie.
Here are the weasel words: "Should such a promise have been made by NATO as such, it would have to have been as a formal, written decision by all NATO Allies. Furthermore, the consideration of enlarging NATO came years after German reunification. This issue was not yet on the agenda when Russia claims these promises were made."
First, nobody accused NATO of making such a promise. Second, senior U.S. and German officials would have had every right to make such a promise without ever needing to place it on NATO's agenda. The U.S. is sufficiently powerful to enforce such a promise unilaterally. Third, such attempts by the author(s) of the fact sheet to insert NATO into this discussion suggest that somebody has forgotten that NATO actually is subordinate to the political leaders of the member states -- especially the President of the United States.
In addition, the author(s) of the fact sheet were less than scrupulous when presenting facts that supposedly refute Russia's charge of illegitimate behavior by NATO in its Kosovo war in 1999 and the bombing of Libya in 2011.
In fact, an independent examination, titled "Short War, Long Shadow: The Political and Military Legacies of the 2011 Libya Campaign" (by the Royal United Services Institute), destroys the fact sheet with its sweeping condemnation, not only of the West's (and NATO's) conduct in Kosovo and Libya, but also in Bosnia in 1995 and Iraq in 2003.
In his chapter titled, "The Responsibility to Protect: A Chance Missed," Jonathan Eyal concluded that "those who criticize NATO and Western governments for going beyond their [UN Security Council] mandate [in Libya] do have a point. NATO went to great lengths to minimize civilian casualties and, overall, succeeded admirably in this objective. NATO's operation also save many lives, but an operation which was justified in purely humanitarian terms was ultimately stretched to achieving an eminently political objective: the removal of a government and its replacement by the rebels."
One of America's most respected Russia scholars, Stephen Cohen, claims that President Obama deceived Russia's Vladimir Putin about the nature of the intended operation in Libya, which is why Putin refuses to trust him today. Putin admitted as much on 17 April 2014. (Clearly, Obama knows very little about Russia.) But, regardless of the source of the deception, had Russia not been deceived, it certainly would have vetoed UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
Mr. Eyal adds, "Probably the most evident departure from the spirit of Resolution 1973--was the decision of the Western powers to allow the supply of weapons and training to the Libyan rebels."
But Mr. Eyal makes a more compelling point, one that blows parts of the NATO fact sheet out the water. "All of the errors [in the Libya campaign] outlined above would not have been major, had they been perpetrated in isolation, or had they been confined to the Libya episode alone. Unfortunately, however, the handling of the legal framework for the Libya operation mirrors Western behavior in previous interventions, from the Bosnia operation in 1995, to the Kosovo war in 1999 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In every one of these occasions:
--A handful of Western governments used a UN Security Council resolution that lacked full backing, supposedly on behalf of the 'international community'
--In every single case, the aim was to persuade Russia to abstain, rather than veto the resolution, on the calculation that, once this was accomplished, China would be too embarrassed to be in a minority of one to torpedo the same resolution