NATO Expansion: What Yeltsin Heard
Russian president led to believe Partnership for Peace was alternative to expanded NATO
Documents show early Russian opposition to “neo-containment;” more U.S. assurances to Russia: “inclusion not exclusion” in new European security structures
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 621
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Washington, D.C., March 16, 2018 – Declassified documents from U.S. and Russian archives show that U.S. officials led Russian President Boris Yeltsin to believe in 1993 that the Partnership for Peace was the alternative to NATO expansion, rather than a precursor to it, while simultaneously planning for expansion after Yeltsin’s re-election bid in 1996 and telling the Russians repeatedly that the future European security system would include, not exclude, Russia.
The declassified U.S. account of one key conversation on October 22, 1993 shows Secretary of State Warren Christopher assuring Yeltsin in Moscow that the Partnership for Peace was about including Russia together with all European countries, not creating a new membership list of just some European countries for NATO; and Yeltsin responding, “this is genius!”
A year later, Yeltsin would accuse the U.S. of replacing the Cold War with a “cold peace” by planning to expand NATO; and the Americans tried to repair relations by insisting that expansion would happen, but slowly, “no surprises,” and only after the Russian parliamentary elections of 1995 and the Russian and U.S. presidential elections of 1996. The documents published today include two verbatim memcons of Yeltsin’s meetings with President Bill Clinton in May and June 1995, in which NATO was a major and contentious subject, State Department warnings as early as 1993 about how “neuralgic” the NATO issue was for Russia, and a 1996 cable dismissing Russian complaints that the “spirit” of the 1990 German unification treaty precluded NATO expansion.
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