Putin goes back decades in justifying the invasion. The last question I answered was whether there were verbal promises made to the Soviets around the time of re-unification or the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 to limit NATO expansion. My response was no. And the Soviet leader at the time, Gorbachev, agrees with this. The best Putin can come up with, is that in 1990, the head of NATO said they had no plans to expand NATO eastward. Of course, this was said when the Warsaw Pact was still in place, so these countries could not join NATO.
World politics in 1990 is very different from today. Still, Putin’s justification for the invasion go back decades. So, before going ahead, I thought to summarize as quickly as possible key historical events 1985 forward. Leonid Brezhnev, the hard line leader of the Soviet Union, died in 1982 while in office as the General Secretary of the Communist Party and the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.
Vladimir Putin at the time of Brezhnev’s death, was 30 years old and an agent in the KGB. From 1985 to 1990, he was a KGB agent working in Dresden, Germany. There is an excellent videos produced by Frontline, of Putin’s rise to power, and how the dissolution of the USSR likely influence his perspective.
Frontline: Putin’s Way (produced in 2015, after the takeover of Crimea)
|March 11, 1985||Gorbachev becomes the General Secretary of the Communist Party and is eager to make changes to make the bureaucracy more efficient and responsive, through Glastnost (openness, freedom of press and information) and Perestroika (democratic restructuring, including multi-candidate elections). See link Mikhail Gorbachev.|
|June 12, 1987||President Reagan’s “Tear down this wall” speech in Germany. It is broadcast over the radio, and was heard in East Germany and the Soviet Union.|
|June 1, 1988||Disarmament agreement between US and Soviets on intermediate nuclear missiles went into effect.|
|Mar 29, 1990||Gorbachev had introduced competitive elections for the Boris Yeltsin is elected president of the Soviet parl|
|May 1989||In May 1989 Gorbachev is elected chairman of this Supreme Soviet and thereby retained the national presidency.|
|Nov 9, 1989||The Berlin wall is torn down. Re-unification required the acceptance of the four major powers that created a divided Germany, USSR, France, UK and the US which is not complete until 1994 with the withdrawal of Russian troops.|
|July 1, 1990||East Germany adopts the West German currency, all de jure border controls ceased, although the inter-German border had become meaningless for some time before that. The demolition of the Wall was completed in 1994.|
|July 1, 1991||Warsaw Pact dissolved. NATO Declassified: Warsaw Pact Also,|
|Aug 18, 1991||The military launches a coup against Gorbachev. Boris Yeltsin stands on top of a tank and delivers a speech to the crowd to defy the military leaders. Coup attempt ends quickly, but Gorbachev’s authority greatly diminishes in September. Yeltsin begins to gain control.|
|Dec 8-12, 1991||Belavezhskaya Accords: On 8 December, Yeltsin met Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk and the leader of Belarus, Stanislav Shushkevich, in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. In the Belavezha Accords, the three presidents declared that the Soviet Union no longer existed “as a subject of international law and geopolitical reality,” and announced the formation of a voluntary Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in its place.|
According to Gorbachev, Yeltsin kept the plans of the Belovezhskaya meeting in strict secrecy and the main goal of the dissolution of the Soviet Union was to get rid of Gorbachev, who by that time had started to recover his position after the events of August. Gorbachev has also accused Yeltsin of violating the people’s will expressed in the referendum in which the majority voted to keep the Soviet Union united. On 12 December, the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR ratified the Belavezha Accords and denounced the 1922 Union Treaty. It also recalled the Russian deputies from the Council of the Union, leaving that body without a quorum. While this is regarded as the moment that the largest republic of the Soviet Union had seceded, this is not technically the case. Russia appeared to take the line that it was not possible to secede from a country that no longer existed.
|Dec 26, 1991||The dissolution of the USSR, occurred in 3 years and 1 month and by the end of 1991, there were 15 newly independent republics.|
Other YouTube links are provided at the end of this blog.
He was the first freely elected president of Russia. He was a very popular president at the beginning, but as the economic crisis worsened, his popularity soon dropped. He had attempted to make drastic changes in the economy, by lifting price controls and other governmental controls, and at the same time, liberalize the government at a more rapid pace than under Gorbachev.
There are so many good documentaries and summaries on Yeltsin and Putin, that I will not attempt provide more information.
Inside story: Boris Yeltsin Part 1 on YouTude
Inside story: Boris Yeltsin- Part 2 on YouTube
Wikipedia: Boris Yeltsin
Frontline: Putin’s Way (produced in 2015, after the takeover of Crimea)
Frontline: Putin’s Road to War
Wikipedia: Valdimir Putin
Military spending as a percentage of GDP is similar, with a low of 2.7% in 1998 and a high of 5.5% in 2016.
Acceptance into NATO
Acceptance of applications to NATO required the approval of the Allied powers, including the US and Canada. For the US, the Senate must vote to approval acceptance. By the accords to re-unify Germany, the former state of East Germany dissolved, so the united Germany was a member of NATO.
Since Bush, every president has supported entry of Eastern European countries into NATO.
|Bush, HW||East Germany, due to accords of German re-unification, 9-Oct-90|
|Clinton, W.||Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, 12-March-1999|
|Bush, W||Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, 29-Mar-2004|
|Obama||Albania, Croatia 1-April-2009|
|Biden||North Macedonia, 27-March-2020|
Required steps for Entry
There are a series of necessary steps prior to admission. It begins with a country expressing a desire to join. A country’s participation in the Membership Action Plan (MAP) entails the annual presentation of reports concerning its progress on five different measures:
(1) Willingness to settle international, ethnic or external territorial disputes by peaceful means, commitment to the rule of law and human rights, and democratic control of armed forces
(2) Ability to contribute to the organization’s defense and missions
(3) Devotion of sufficient resources to armed forces to be able to meet the commitments of membership
(4) Security of sensitive information, and safeguards ensuring it
(5) Compatibility of domestic legislation with NATO cooperation
The foreign ministers from the Allied countries meet, and review the application for admission. If approved, then the US Senate must vote for admission. The last country to be admitted was North Macedonia.
NATO Military Operations
See: Wikipedia, List of NATO operations
What is striking about the list of NATO operations, is since NATO was founded in 1949, for the first 43 years, there were no NATO operations. Many of the operations were done in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions. Russia can always use its veto power to strike down a Security Council resolution.
NATO Expansion Promises
Putin claims NATO promised not to expand in 1990. The best repudiation of this claim is given in the link below:
Brookings Institute: Did NATO Promise Not to Enlarge? Gorbachev says “No.”
You Tube Links:
This video is certainly controversial. I do not accept that Russia has reason to be fearful of NATO. Moreover, this is in the mindset of Putin, having been in isolation during Covid-19 pandemic. The statement that George H.W. Bush promised Gorbachev it would not expand NATO eastward was never part of any agreement. Gorbachev said it just didn’t come up in the 4+2 Treaty negotiations, except in regard to NATO deployments in the former Eastern Germany. NATO had no plans to expand eastward, in 1990, because the countries belong to the Warsaw Pact. No new members for 9 years following the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved because its member nations no longer considered it necessary.
The comment by William Burns in 2008, that accepting of Ukraine into NATO would be viewed as a hostile act, is also accurate, and it is noted that Ukraine is not a part of NATO. The strong protest of NATO expansion from Russia at the 2007 Munich Conference is correct. I may comment on this video in my next blog.
Well done video.
Frontline: Putin’s Revenge
FRONTLINE tells the story of how Russian President Vladimir Putin came to see the United States as an enemy — and how U.S. intelligence came to believe he targeted the 2016 presidential election.
Unlike other posts, this posting is meant to be informative rather than address a particular issue. The buildup of hate against NATO and the US by Putin, can not be attributed to a single event. Visitors are free to add their own comments and/or links.
It does not in anyway provide justification for the Ukrainian invasion.