The Note that James Baker no longer knows

The West is not innocent of the War in Ukraine

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

Former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III responded to my question about NATO’s eastward expansion. Mr. Baker was present in a leading position when, in 1990, the negotiations with the Soviets on the reunification of my homeland primarily concerned the question of the future of the transatlantic alliance.

The answer of the statesman to a directly affected person like me is extremely polite, but also just as politically codified. I assume that the chief negotiator at the time can no longer openly refer to the actual result of 1990 in view of the current explosive nature of the unchecked eastward expansion of NATO.

He then does not address my core question in an unambiguous form but refers mainly to the issue of Germany’s future NATO membership, which was very relevant at the time. The possibility of excluding the area acceding to the Federal Republic of Germany – i.e., the GDR – from future NATO membership was also briefly discussed, but finally discarded. With reference to my main question, Mr. Baker writes to me that “nobody at that time was considering the possibility of expanding NATO to other countries.” But in another passage, it says: During the early stage of the negotiations he (Baker) had raised the possibility towards Gorbachev that the USA COULD agree to a non-extension of NATO to the East, if the Soviet Union agreed to a German reunification. However, this had only been a “what if” consideration, which was withdrawn a short time later.

His initial remark apparently refers to February 9, 1990, when he settled the NATO issue with Soviet leader Michael Gorbachev in Moscow, which resulted the following day in the Soviet “yes” to an economic and monetary union vis-à-vis East Germany – which, as is well known, led to German reunification that same year. But Mr. Baker did not mention to me a note he wrote specifically about the promise to the Soviets not to expand NATO beyond the German Oder-Neisse line.

Instead, the end of the letter from his office states that the information is for the recipient’s personal use only and is to be kept confidential. Therefore, I cannot publish them in their entirety, but only use parts of their content analogously.

As chance would have it, on the morning of February 26, 2022, I came across an interview with the former German Minister of State in the Foreign Office and former First Mayor of Hamburg, Klaus von Dohnanyi. The interview with him had been broadcast by Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (Central German Broadcasting), a public broadcaster for the federal states of Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt (my home state). I followed von Dohnanyi’s statements live on the Internet.

Von Dohnanyi cited a written memo from the U.S. Secretary of State referring to NATO, without which German unification would not have been possible because the Soviets would otherwise have refused to give their consent. The German politician said in a statement: “Baker’s reference in that note implies Germany can join NATO as a whole, but beyond that there is no expansion.” And further: “The context is completely indisputable – anyone who denies this does not know the files.”

So, we have two statements here. One diplomat doesn’t really get to the topic, avoids it politely and very clever – the other diplomat quotes the file situation.

I personally have not seen this note, but it hardly makes sense why the Soviets de facto gave up everything they had gained in World War II without at least securing their own borders and demanding corresponding assurances from the West. This seems highly unlikely – regardless of the fact that in 1990 no one could have accurately foreseen the breakup of the Soviet Union and with it the emergence of independent former Soviet republics like Ukraine that would now pursue their own security interests.

In addition, there are statements in audio and visual documents from politicians active at the time who, by their own admission, did not intend NATO to expand eastward – see my article “The West’s Falsification of History.”

Let’s conclude with one of the most respected and brilliant diplomats the U.S. has ever had: George F. Kennan, the architect of US post-World War II strategy of containment of the Soviet Union. When secretary of state Madeleine Albright in 1999 formally welcomed Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) at the Harry S. Truman presidential library in Independence, Missouri, Kennan called the expansion of NATO into Central Europe “the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold war area”, causing damage “beyond repair” to efforts to transform Russia from an enemy into a partner.

My implication is the following: Putin is inexcusable, because every war is a crime, no matter who starts it. But how the West presents itself these days is not only frightening, but shameful.

The West bears a historically verifiable share of the guilt for the war in Ukraine.

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