Materials from mass media on NATO enlargement

Declassified documents today by the US National Security Archive at George Washington University

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Washington D.C., December 12, 2017 – U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German unification in 1990 and on into 1991, according to declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents posted today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University (

The documents show that multiple national leaders were considering and rejecting Central and Eastern European membership in NATO as of early 1990 and through 1991, that discussions of NATO in the context of German unification negotiations in 1990 were not at all narrowly limited to the status of East German territory, and that subsequent Soviet and Russian complaints about being misled about NATO expansion were founded in written contemporaneous memcons and telcons at the highest levels. 

The documents reinforce former CIA Director Robert Gates’s criticism of “pressing ahead with expansion of NATO eastward [in the 1990s], when Gorbachev and others were led to believe that wouldn’t happen.”[1] The key phrase, buttressed by the documents, is “led to believe.”

President George H.W. Bush had assured Gorbachev during the Malta summit in December 1989 that the U.S. would not take advantage (“I have not jumped up and down on the Berlin Wall”) of the revolutions in Eastern Europe to harm Soviet interests; but neither Bush nor Gorbachev at that point (or for that matter, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl) expected so soon the collapse of East Germany or the speed of German unification.[2]

The first concrete assurances by Western leaders on NATO began on January 31, 1990, when West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher opened the bidding with a major public speech at Tutzing, in Bavaria, on German unification. The U.S. Embassy in Bonn (see Document 1) informed Washington that Genscher made clear “that the changes in Eastern Europe and the German unification process must not lead to an ‘impairment of Soviet security interests.’ Therefore, NATO should rule out an ‘expansion of its territory towards the east, i.e. moving it closer to the Soviet borders.’” The Bonn cable also noted Genscher’s proposal to leave the East German territory out of NATO military structures even in a unified Germany in NATO.[3] 

This latter idea of special status for the GDR territory was codified in the final German unification treaty signed on September 12, 1990, by the Two-Plus-Four foreign ministers (see Document 25). The former idea about “closer to the Soviet borders” is written down not in treaties but in multiple memoranda of conversation between the Soviets and the highest-level Western interlocutors (Genscher, Kohl, Baker, Gates, Bush, Mitterrand, Thatcher, Major, Woerner, and others) offering assurances throughout 1990 and into 1991 about protecting Soviet security interests and including the USSR in new European security structures. The two issues were related but not the same. Subsequent analysis sometimes conflated the two and argued that the discussion did not involve all of Europe. The documents published below show clearly that it did.

The “Tutzing formula” immediately became the center of a flurry of important diplomatic discussions over the next 10 days in 1990, leading to the crucial February 10, 1990, meeting in Moscow between Kohl and Gorbachev when the West German leader achieved Soviet assent in principle to German unification in NATO, as long as NATO did not expand to the east. The Soviets would need much more time to work with their domestic opinion (and financial aid from the West Germans) before formally signing the deal in September 1990.

The conversations before Kohl’s assurance involved explicit discussion of NATO expansion, the Central and East European countries, and how to convince the Soviets to accept unification. For example, on February 6, 1990, when Genscher met with British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd, the British record showed Genscher saying, “The Russians must have some assurance that if, for example, the Polish Government left the Warsaw Pact one day, they would not join NATO the next.” (See Document 2)

Having met with Genscher on his way into discussions with the Soviets, Baker repeated exactly the Genscher formulation in his meeting with Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze on February 9, 1990, (see Document 4); and even more importantly, face to face with Gorbachev.

Not once, but three times, Baker tried out the “not one inch eastward” formula with Gorbachev in the February 9, 1990, meeting. He agreed with Gorbachev’s statement in response to the assurances that “NATO expansion is unacceptable.” Baker assured Gorbachev that “neither the President nor I intend to extract any unilateral advantages from the processes that are taking place,” and that the Americans understood that “not only for the Soviet Union but for other European countries as well it is important to have guarantees that if the United States keeps its presence in Germany within the framework of NATO, not an inch of NATO’s present military jurisdiction will spread in an eastern direction.” (See Document 6) 

Afterwards, Baker wrote to Helmut Kohl who would meet with the Soviet leader on the next day, with much of the very same language. Baker reported: “And then I put the following question to him [Gorbachev]. Would you prefer to see a united Germany outside of NATO, independent and with no U.S. forces or would you prefer a unified Germany to be tied to NATO, with assurances that NATO’s jurisdiction would not shift one inch eastward from its present position? He answered that the Soviet leadership was giving real thought to all such options [….] He then added, ‘Certainly any extension of the zone of NATO would be unacceptable.’” Baker added in parentheses, for Kohl’s benefit, “By implication, NATO in its current zone might be acceptable.” (See Document 8)

Well-briefed by the American secretary of state, the West German chancellor understood a key Soviet bottom line, and assured Gorbachev on February 10, 1990: “We believe that NATO should not expand the sphere of its activity.” (See Document 9) After this meeting, Kohl could hardly contain his excitement at Gorbachev’s agreement in principle for German unification and, as part of the Helsinki formula that states choose their own alliances, so Germany could choose NATO. Kohl described in his memoirs walking all night around Moscow – but still understanding there was a price still to pay.

All the Western foreign ministers were on board with Genscher, Kohl, and Baker. Next came the British foreign minister, Douglas Hurd, on April 11, 1990. At this point, the East Germans had voted overwhelmingly for the deutschmark and for rapid unification, in the March 18 elections in which Kohl had surprised almost all observers with a real victory. Kohl’s analyses (first explained to Bush on December 3, 1989) that the GDR’s collapse would open all possibilities, that he had to run to get to the head of the train, that he needed U.S. backing, that unification could happen faster than anyone thought possible – all turned out to be correct. Monetary union would proceed as early as July and the assurances about security kept coming. Hurd reinforced the Baker-Genscher-Kohl message in his meeting with Gorbachev in Moscow, April 11, 1990, saying that Britain clearly “recognized the importance of doing nothing to prejudice Soviet interests and dignity.” (See Document 15)

The Baker conversation with Shevardnadze on May 4, 1990, as Baker described it in his own report to President Bush, most eloquently described what Western leaders were telling Gorbachev exactly at the moment: “I used your speech and our recognition of the need to adapt NATO, politically and militarily, and to develop CSCE to reassure Shevardnadze that the process would not yield winners and losers. Instead, it would produce a new legitimate European structure – one that would be inclusive, not exclusive.” (See Document 17) 

Baker said it again, directly to Gorbachev on May 18, 1990 in Moscow, giving Gorbachev his “nine points,” which included the transformation of NATO, strengthening European structures, keeping Germany non-nuclear, and taking Soviet security interests into account. Baker started off his remarks, “Before saying a few words about the German issue, I wanted to emphasize that our policies are not aimed at separating Eastern Europe from the Soviet Union. We had that policy before. But today we are interested in building a stable Europe, and doing it together with you.” (See Document 18)

The French leader Francois Mitterrand was not in a mind-meld with the Americans, quite the contrary, as evidenced by his telling Gorbachev in Moscow on May 25, 1990, that he was “personally in favor of gradually dismantling the military blocs”; but Mitterrand continued the cascade of assurances by saying the West must “create security conditions for you, as well as European security as a whole.” (See Document 19) Mitterrand immediately wrote Bush in a "cher George" letter about his conversation with the Soviet leader, that “we would certainly not refuse to detail the guarantees that he would have a right to expect for his country’s security.” (See Document 20)

At the Washington summit on May 31, 1990, Bush went out of his way to assure Gorbachev that Germany in NATO would never be directed at the USSR: “Believe me, we are not pushing Germany towards unification, and it is not us who determines the pace of this process. And of course, we have no intention, even in our thoughts, to harm the Soviet Union in any fashion. That is why we are speaking in favor of German unification in NATO without ignoring the wider context of the CSCE, taking the traditional economic ties between the two German states into consideration. Such a model, in our view, corresponds to the Soviet interests as well.” (See Document 21)

The “Iron Lady” also pitched in, after the Washington summit, in her meeting with Gorbachev in London on June 8, 1990. Thatcher anticipated the moves the Americans (with her support) would take in the early July NATO conference to support Gorbachev with descriptions of the transformation of NATO towards a more political, less militarily threatening, alliance. She said to Gorbachev: “We must find ways to give the Soviet Union confidence that its security would be assured…. CSCE could be an umbrella for all this, as well as being the forum which brought the Soviet Union fully into discussion about the future of Europe.” (See Document 22)

The NATO London Declaration on July 5, 1990 had quite a positive effect on deliberations in Moscow, according to most accounts, giving Gorbachev significant ammunition to counter his hardliners at the Party Congress which was taking place at that moment. Some versions of this history assert that an advance copy was provided to Shevardnadze’s aides, while others describe just an alert that allowed those aides to take the wire service copy and produce a Soviet positive assessment before the military or hardliners could call it propaganda.

As Kohl said to Gorbachev in Moscow on July 15, 1990, as they worked out the final deal on German unification: “We know what awaits NATO in the future, and I think you are now in the know as well,” referring to the NATO London Declaration. (See Document 23)

In his phone call to Gorbachev on July 17, Bush meant to reinforce the success of the Kohl-Gorbachev talks and the message of the London Declaration. Bush explained: “So what we tried to do was to take account of your concerns expressed to me and others, and we did it in the following ways: by our joint declaration on non-aggression; in our invitation to you to come to NATO; in our agreement to open NATO to regular diplomatic contact with your government and those of the Eastern European countries; and our offer on assurances on the future size of the armed forces of a united Germany – an issue I know you discussed with Helmut Kohl. We also fundamentally changed our military approach on conventional and nuclear forces. We conveyed the idea of an expanded, stronger CSCE with new institutions in which the USSR can share and be part of the new Europe.” (See Document 24)

The documents show that Gorbachev agreed to German unification in NATO as the result of this cascade of assurances, and on the basis of his own analysis that the future of the Soviet Union depended on its integration into Europe, for which Germany would be the decisive actor. He and most of his allies believed that some version of the common European home was still possible and would develop alongside the transformation of NATO to lead to a more inclusive and integrated European space, that the post-Cold War settlement would take account of the Soviet security interests. The alliance with Germany would not only overcome the Cold War but also turn on its head the legacy of the Great Patriotic War.

But inside the U.S. government, a different discussion continued, a debate about relations between NATO and Eastern Europe. Opinions differed, but the suggestion from the Defense Department as of October 25, 1990 was to leave “the door ajar” for East European membership in NATO. (See Document 27) The view of the State Department was that NATO expansion was not on the agenda, because it was not in the interest of the U.S. to organize “an anti-Soviet coalition” that extended to the Soviet borders, not least because it might reverse the positive trends in the Soviet Union. (See Document 26) The Bush administration took the latter view. And that’s what the Soviets heard.

As late as March 1991, according to the diary of the British ambassador to Moscow, British Prime Minister John Major personally assured Gorbachev, “We are not talking about the strengthening of NATO.” Subsequently, when Soviet defense minister Marshal Dmitri Yazov asked Major about East European leaders’ interest in NATO membership, the British leader responded, “Nothing of the sort will happen.” (See Document 28)

When Russian Supreme Soviet deputies came to Brussels to see NATO and meet with NATO secretary-general Manfred Woerner in July 1991, Woerner told the Russians that “We should not allow […] the isolation of the USSR from the European community.” According to the Russian memorandum of conversation, “Woerner stressed that the NATO Council and he are against the expansion of NATO (13 of 16 NATO members support this point of view).” (See Document 30)

Thus, Gorbachev went to the end of the Soviet Union assured that the West was not threatening his security and was not expanding NATO. Instead, the dissolution of the USSR was brought about by Russians (Boris Yeltsin and his leading advisory Gennady Burbulis) in concert with the former party bosses of the Soviet republics, especially Ukraine, in December 1991. The Cold War was long over by then. The Americans had tried to keep the Soviet Union together (see the Bush “Chicken Kiev” speech in July 1991). NATO’s expansion was years in the future, when these disputes would erupt again, and more assurances would come to Russian leader Boris Yeltsin.

The Archive compiled these declassified documents for a panel discussion on November 10, 2017 at the annual conference of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) in Chicago under the title “Who Promised What to Whom on NATO Expansion?” The panel included:

* Mark Kramer from the Davis Center at Harvard, editor of the Journal of Cold War Studies, whose 2009 Washington Quarterly article argued that the “no-NATO-enlargement pledge” was a “myth”;[4]

* Joshua R. Itkowitz Shifrinson from the Bush School at Texas A&M, whose 2016 International Security article argued the U.S. was playing a double game in 1990, leading Gorbachev to believe NATO would be subsumed in a new European security structure, while working to ensure hegemony in Europe and the maintenance of NATO;[5]

* James Goldgeier from American University, who wrote the authoritative book on the Clinton decision on NATO expansion, Not Whether But When, and described the misleading U.S. assurances to Russian leader Boris Yeltsin in a 2016 WarOnTheRocks article;[6]

* Svetlana Savranskaya and Tom Blanton from the National Security Archive, whose most recent book, The Last Superpower Summits: Gorbachev, Reagan, and Bush: Conversations That Ended the Cold War (CEU Press, 2016) analyzes and publishes the declassified transcripts and related documents from all of Gorbachev’s summits with U.S. presidents, including dozens of assurances about protecting the USSR’s security interests.[7]

[Today’s posting is the first of two on the subject. The second part will cover the Yeltsin discussions with Western leaders about NATO.]

Read the documents

U.S. Embassy Bonn Confidential Cable to Secretary of State on the speech of the German Foreign Minister: Genscher Outlines His Vision of a New European Architecture.
Source: U.S. Department of State. FOIA Reading Room. Case F-2015 10829
One of the myths about the January and February 1990 discussions of German unification is that these talks occurred so early in the process, with the Warsaw Pact still very much in existence, that no one was thinking about the possibility that Central and European countries, even then members of the Warsaw Pact, could in the future become members of NATO. On the contrary, the West German foreign minister’s Tutzing formula in his speech of January 31, 1990, widely reported in the media in Europe, Washington, and Moscow, explicitly addressed the possibility of NATO expansion, as well as Central and Eastern European membership in NATO – and denied that possibility, as part of his olive garland towards Moscow. This U.S. Embassy Bonn cable reporting back to Washington details both of Hans-Dietrich Genscher’s proposals – that NATO would not expand to the east, and that the former territory of the GDR in a unified Germany would be treated differently from other NATO territory.
Mr. Hurd to Sir C. Mallaby (Bonn). Telegraphic N. 85: Secretary of State’s Call on Herr Genscher: German Unification.
Source: Documents on British Policy Overseas, series III, volume VII: German Unification, 1989-1990. (Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Documents on British Policy Overseas, edited by Patrick Salmon, Keith Hamilton, and Stephen Twigge, Oxford and New York, Routledge 2010). pp. 261-264
The U.S. State Department’s subsequent view of the German unification negotiations, expressed in a 1996 cable sent to all posts, mistakenly asserts that the entire negotiation over the future of Germany limited its discussion of the future of NATO to the specific arrangements over the territory of the former GDR. Perhaps the American diplomats missed out on the early dialogue between the British and the Germans on this issue, even though both shared their views with the U.S. secretary of state. As published in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s official 2010 documentary history of the UK’s input into German unification, this memorandum of British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd’s conversation with West German Foreign Minister Genscher on February 6, 1990, contains some remarkable specificity on the issue of future NATO membership for the Central Europeans. The British memorandum specifically quotes Genscher as saying “that when he talked about not wanting to extend NATO that applied to other states beside the GDR. The Russians must have some assurance that if, for example, the Polish Government left the Warsaw Pact one day, they would not join NATO the next.” Genscher and Hurd were saying the same to their Soviet counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze, and to James Baker.[8]
Memorandum from Paul H. Nitze to George H.W. Bush about “Forum for Germany” meeting in Berlin.
Source: George H. W. Bush Presidential Library
This concise note to President Bush from one of the Cold War’s architects, Paul Nitze (based at his namesake Johns Hopkins University School of International Studies), captures the debate over the future of NATO in early 1990. Nitze relates that Central and Eastern European leaders attending the “Forum for Germany” conference in Berlin were advocating the dissolution of both the superpower blocs, NATO and the Warsaw Pact, until he (and a few western Europeans) turned around that view and instead emphasized the importance of NATO as the basis of stability and U.S. presence in Europe.
Memorandum of Conversation between James Baker and Eduard Shevardnadze in Moscow.
Source: U.S. Department of State, FOIA 199504567 (National Security Archive Flashpoints Collection, Box 38)
Although heavily redacted compared to the Soviet accounts of these conversations, the official State Department version of Secretary Baker’s assurances to Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze just before the formal meeting with Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, contains a series of telling phrases. Baker proposes the Two-Plus-Four formula, with the two being the Germanies and the four the post-war occupying powers; argues against other ways to negotiate unification; and makes the case for anchoring Germany in NATO. Furthermore, Baker tells the Soviet foreign minister, “A neutral Germany would undoubtedly acquire its own independent nuclear capability. However, a Germany that is firmly anchored in a changed NATO, by that I mean a NATO that is far less of [a] military organization, much more of a political one, would have no need for independent capability. There would, of course, have to be iron-clad guarantees that NATO’s jurisdiction or forces would not move eastward. And this would have to be done in a manner that would satisfy Germany’s neighbors to the east.”
Memorandum of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and James Baker in Moscow.
Source: U.S. Department of State, FOIA 199504567 (National Security Archive Flashpoints Collection, Box 38)
Even with (unjustified) redactions by U.S. classification officers, this American transcript of perhaps the most famous U.S. assurance to the Soviets on NATO expansion confirms the Soviet transcript of the same conversation. Repeating what Bush said at the Malta summit in December 1989, Baker tells Gorbachev: “The President and I have made clear that we seek no unilateral advantage in this process” of inevitable German unification. Baker goes on to say, “We understand the need for assurances to the countries in the East. If we maintain a presence in a Germany that is a part of NATO, there would be no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east.” Later in the conversation, Baker poses the same position as a question, “would you prefer a united Germany outside of NATO that is independent and has no US forces or would you prefer a united Germany with ties to NATO and assurances that there would be no extension of NATO’s current jurisdiction eastward?” The declassifiers of this memcon actually redacted Gorbachev’s response that indeed such an expansion would be “unacceptable” – but Baker’s letter to Kohl the next day, published in 1998 by the Germans, gives the quote.
Record of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and James Baker in Moscow. (Excerpts)
Source: Gorbachev Foundation Archive, Fond 1, Opis 1.

This Gorbachev Foundation record of the Soviet leader’s meeting with James Baker on February 9, 1990, has been public and available for researchers at the Foundation since as early as 1996, but it was not published in English until 2010 when the Masterpieces of History volume by the present authors came out from Central European University Press. The document focuses on German unification, but also includes candid discussion by Gorbachev of the economic and political problems in the Soviet Union, and Baker’s “free advice” (“sometimes the finance minister in me wakes up”) on prices, inflation, and even the policy of selling apartments to soak up the rubles cautious Soviet citizens have tucked under their mattresses.

Turning to German unification, Baker assures Gorbachev that “neither the president nor I intend to extract any unilateral advantages from the processes that are taking place,” and that the Americans understand the importance for the USSR and Europe of guarantees that “not an inch of NATO’s present military jurisdiction will spread in an eastern direction.” Baker argues in favor of the Two-Plus-Four talks using the same assurance: “We believe that consultations and discussions within the framework of the ‘two+four’ mechanism should guarantee that Germany’s unification will not lead to NATO’s military organization spreading to the east.” Gorbachev responds by quoting Polish President Wojciech Jaruzelski: “that the presence of American and Soviet troops in Europe is an element of stability.” 

The key exchange takes place when Baker asks whether Gorbachev would prefer “a united Germany outside of NATO, absolutely independent and without American troops; or a united Germany keeping its connections with NATO, but with the guarantee that NATO’s jurisdiction or troops will not spread east of the present boundary.” Thus, in this conversation, the U.S. secretary of state three times offers assurances that if Germany were allowed to unify in NATO, preserving the U.S. presence in Europe, then NATO would not expand to the east. Interestingly, not once does he use the term GDR or East Germany or even mention the Soviet troops in East Germany. For a skilled negotiator and careful lawyer, it seems very unlikely Baker would not use specific terminology if in fact he was referring only to East Germany.

The Soviet leader responds that “[w]e will think everything over. We intend to discuss all these questions in depth at the leadership level. It goes without saying that a broadening of the NATO zone is not acceptable.” Baker affirms: “We agree with that.”

Turning to German unification, Baker assures Gorbachev that “neither the president nor I intend to extract any unilateral advantages from the processes that are taking place,” and that the Americans understand the importance for the USSR and Europe of guarantees that “not an inch of NATO’s present military jurisdiction will spread in an eastern direction.” Baker argues in favor of the Two-Plus-Four talks using the same assurance: “We believe that consultations and discussions within the framework of the ‘two+four’ mechanism should guarantee that Germany’s unification will not lead to NATO’s military organization spreading to the east.” Gorbachev responds by quoting Polish President Wojciech Jaruzelski: “that the presence of American and Soviet troops in Europe is an element of stability.” The key exchange takes place when Baker asks whether Gorbachev would prefer “a united Germany outside of NATO, absolutely independent and without American troops; or a united Germany keeping its connections with NATO, but with the guarantee that NATO’s jurisdiction or troops will not spread east of the present boundary.” Thus, in this conversation, the U.S. secretary of state three times offers assurances that if Germany were allowed to unify in NATO, preserving the U.S. presence in Europe, then NATO would not expand to the east. Interestingly, not once does he use the term GDR or East Germany or even mention the Soviet troops in East Germany. For a skilled negotiator and careful lawyer, it seems very unlikely Baker would not use specific terminology if in fact he was referring only to East Germany. The Soviet leader responds that “[w]e will think everything over. We intend to discuss all these questions in depth at the leadership level. It goes without saying that a broadening of the NATO zone is not acceptable.” Baker affirms: “We agree with that.”
Memorandum of conversation between Robert Gates and Vladimir Kryuchkov in Moscow.
Source: George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, NSC Scowcroft Files, Box 91128, Folder “Gorbachev (Dobrynin) Sensitive.”

This conversation is especially important because subsequent researchers have speculated that Secretary Baker may have been speaking beyond his brief in his “not one inch eastward” conversation with Gorbachev. Robert Gates, the former top CIA intelligence analyst and a specialist on the USSR, here tells his kind-of-counterpart, the head of the KGB, in his office at the Lubyanka KGB headquarters, exactly what Baker told Gorbachev that day at the Kremlin: not one inch eastward. At that point, Gates was the top deputy to the president’s national security adviser, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, so this document speaks to a coordinated approach by the U.S. government to Gorbachev. Kryuchkov, whom Gorbachev appointed to replace Viktor Chebrikov at the KGB in October 1988, comes across here as surprisingly progressive on many issues of domestic reform. He talks openly about the shortcomings and problems of perestroika, the need to abolish the leading role of the CPSU, the central government’s mistaken neglect of ethnic issues, the “atrocious” pricing system, and other domestic topics. 

When the discussion moves on to foreign policy, in particular the German question, Gates asks, “What did Kryuchkov think of the Kohl/Genscher proposal under which a united Germany would be associated with NATO, but in which NATO troops would move no further east than they now were? It seems to us to be a sound proposal.” Kryuchkov does not give a direct answer but talks about how sensitive the issue of German unification is for the Soviet public and suggests that the Germans should offer the Soviet Union some guarantees. He says that although Kohl and Genscher’s ideas are interesting, “even those points in their proposals with which we agree would have to have guarantees. We learned from the Americans in arms control negotiations the importance of verification, and we would have to be sure.”

Letter from James Baker to Helmut Kohl
Source: Deutsche Enheit Sonderedition und den Akten des Budeskanzleramtes 1989/90, eds. Hanns Jurgen Kusters and Daniel Hofmann (Munich: R. Odenbourg Verlag, 1998), pp. 793-794

This key document first appeared in Helmut Kohl’s compilation of chancellery documents on German unification, published in 1998. Kohl at that moment was caught up in a campaign finance corruption scandal that would end his political career, and wanted to remind Germans of his instrumental role in the triumph of unification. The large volume (over 1,000 pages) included German texts of Kohl’s meetings with Gorbachev, Bush, Mitterrand, Thatcher and more – all published with no apparent consultation with those governments, only eight years after the events. A few of the Kohl documents, such as this one, appear in English, representing the American or British originals rather than German notes or translations. Here, Baker debriefs Kohl the day after his February 9 meeting with Gorbachev. (The chancellor is scheduled to have his own session with Gorbachev on February 10 in Moscow.) The American apprises the German on Soviet “concerns” about unification, and summarizes why a “Two Plus Four” negotiation would be the most appropriate venue for talks on the “external aspects of unification” given that the “internal aspects … were strictly a German matter.” Baker especially remarks on Gorbachev’s noncommittal response to the question about a neutral Germany versus a NATO Germany with pledges against eastward expansion, and advises Kohl that Gorbachev “may well be willing to go along with a sensible approach that gives him some cover …” Kohl reinforces this message in his own conversation later that day with the Soviet leader.

Memorandum of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl
Source: Mikhail Gorbachev i germanskii vopros, edited by Alexander Galkin and Anatoly Chernyaev, (Moscow: Ves Mir, 2006)

This meeting in Moscow was the moment, by Kohl’s account, when he first heard from Gorbachev that the Soviet leader saw German unification as inevitable, that the value of future German friendship in a “common European home” outweighed Cold War rigidities, but that the Soviets would need time (and money) before they could acknowledge the new realities. Prepared by Baker’s letter and his own foreign minister’s Tutzing formula, Kohl early in the conversation assures Gorbachev, “We believe that NATO should not expand the sphere of its activity. We have to find a reasonable resolution. I correctly understand the security interests of the Soviet Union, and I realize that you, Mr. General Secretary, and the Soviet leadership will have to clearly explain what is happening to the Soviet people.” Later the two leaders tussle about NATO and the Warsaw Pact, with Gorbachev commenting, “They say what is NATO without the FRG. But we could also ask: what is the WTO without the GDR?” When Kohl disagrees, Gorbachev calls merely for “reasonable solutions that do not poison the atmosphere in our relations” and says this part of the conversation should not be made public. 

Gorbachev aide Andrei Grachev later wrote that the Soviet leader early on understood that Germany was the door to European integration, and “[a]ll the attempted bargaining [by Gorbachev] about the final formula for German association with NATO was therefore much more a question of form than serious content; Gorbachev was trying to gain needed time in order to let public opinion at home adjust to the new reality, to the new type of relations that were taking shape in the Soviet Union’s relations with Germany as well as with the West in general. At the same time he was hoping to get at least partial political compensation from his Western partners for what he believed to be his major contribution to the end of the Cold War.”[9]

Teimuraz Stepanov-Mamaladze notes from Conference on Open Skies, Ottawa, Canada.
Source: Hoover Institution Archive, Stepanov-Mamaladze Collection.

Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze was particularly unhappy with the swift pace of events on German unification, especially when a previously scheduled NATO and Warsaw Pact foreign ministers’ meeting in Ottawa, Canada, on February 10-12, 1990, that was meant to discuss the “Open Skies” treaty, turned into a wide-ranging negotiation over Germany and the installation of the Two-Plus-Four process to work out the details. Shevardnadze’s aide, Teimuraz Stepanov-Mamaladze, wrote notes of the Ottawa meetings in a series of notebooks, and also kept a less-telegraphic diary, which needs to be read along with the notebooks for the most complete account. Now deposited at the Hoover Institution, these excerpts of the Stepanov-Mamaladze notes and diary record Shevardnadze’s disapproval of the speed of the process, but most importantly reinforce the importance of the February 9 and 10 meetings in Moscow, where Western assurances about Soviet security were heard, and Gorbachev’s assent in principle to eventual German unification came as part of the deal. 

Notes from the first days of the conference are very brief, but they contain one important line that shows that Baker offered the same assurance formula in Ottawa as he did in Moscow: “And if U[nited] G[ermany] stays in NATO, we should take care about nonexpansion of its jurisdiction to the East.” Shevardnadze is not ready to discuss conditions for German unification; he says that he has to consult with Moscow before any condition is approved. On February 13, according to the notes, Shevardnadze complains, “I am in a stupid situation – we are discussing the Open Skies, but my colleagues are talking about unification of Germany as if it was a fact.” The notes show that Baker was very persistent in trying to get Shevardnadze to define Soviet conditions for German unification in NATO, while Shevardnadze was still uncomfortable with the term “unification,” instead insisting on the more general term “unity.”

Teimuraz Stepanov-Mamaladze diary, February 12, 1990.
Source: Hoover Institution Archive, Stepanov-Mamaladze Collection.

This diary entry from February 12 contains a very brief description of the February 10 Kohl and Genscher visit to Moscow, about which Stepanov-Mamaladze had not previously written (since he was not present). Sharing the view of his minister, Shevardnadze, Stepanov reflects on the hurried nature of, and insufficient considerations given to, the Moscow discussions: “Before our visit here, Kohl and Genscher paid a hasty visit to Moscow. And just as hastily – in the opinion of E.A. [Shevardnadze] – Gorbachev accepted the right of the Germans to unity and self-determination.” This diary entry is evidence, from a critical perspective, that the United States and West Germany did give Moscow concrete assurances about keeping NATO to its current size and scope. In fact, the diary further indicates that at least in Shevardnadze’s view those assurances amounted to a deal – which Gorbachev accepted, even while he stalled for time.

Teimuraz Stepanov-Mamaladze diary, February 13, 1990.
Source: Hoover Institution Archive, Stepanov-Mamaladze Collection.

On the second day of the Ottawa conference, Stepanov-Mamaladze describes difficult negotiations about the exact wording on the joint statement on Germany and the Two-Plus-Four process. Shevardnadze and Genscher argued for two hours over the terms “unity” versus “unification” as Shevardnadze tried to slow things down on Germany and get the other ministers to concentrate on Open Skies. The day was quite intense: “During the day, active games were taking place between all of them. E.A. [Shevardnadze] met with Baker five times, twice with Genscher, talked with Fischer [GDR foreign minister], Dumas [French foreign minister], and the ministers of the ATS countries,” and finally, the text of the settlement was settled, using the word “unity.” The final statement also called the agreement on U.S. and Soviet troops in Central Europe the main achievement of the conference. But for the Soviet delegates, “ the ‘Open Sky’ [was] still closed by the storm cloud of Germany.”

U.S. State Department, “Two Plus Four: Advantages, Possible Concerns and Rebuttal Points.”
Source: State Department FOIA release, National Security Archive Flashpoints Collection, Box 38.

This memo, likely authored by top Baker aide Robert Zoellick at the State Department, contains the candid American view of the Two-Plus-Four process with its advantages of “maintain[ing] American involvement in (and even some control over) the unification debate.” The American fear was that the West Germans would make their own deal with Moscow for rapid unification, giving up some of the bottom lines for the U.S., mainly membership in NATO. Zoellick points out, for example, that Kohl had announced his 10 Points without consulting Washington and after signals from Moscow, and that the U.S. had found out about Kohl going to Moscow from the Soviets, not from Kohl. The memo pre-empts objections about including the Soviets by pointing out they were already in Germany and had to be dealt with. The Two-Plus-Four arrangement includes the Soviets but prevents them from having a veto (which a Four-Power process or a United Nations process might allow), while an effective One-Plus-Three conversation before each meeting would enable West Germany and the U.S., with the British and the French, to work out a common position. Especially telling are the underlining and handwriting by Baker in the margins, especially his exuberant phrase, “you haven’t seen a leveraged buyout until you see this one!”

Memorandum of conversation between Vaclav Havel and George Bush in Washington.

George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, Memcons and Telcons (

These conversations might be called “the education of Vaclav Havel,”[10] as the former dissident-turned-president of Czechoslovakia visited Washington only two months after the Velvet Revolution swept him from prison to the Prague Castle. Havel would enjoy standing ovations during a February 21 speech to a joint session of Congress, and hold talks with Bush before and after the congressional appearance. Havel had already been cited by journalists as calling for the dissolution of the Cold War blocs, both NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and the withdrawal of troops, so Bush took the opportunity to lecture the Czech leader about the value of NATO and its essential role as the basis for the U.S. presence in Europe. Still, Havel twice mentioned in his speech to Congress his hope that “American soldiers shouldn’t have to be separated from their mothers” just because Europe couldn’t keep the peace, and appealed for a “future democratic Germany in the process of unifying itself into a new pan-European structure which could decide about its own security system.” But afterwards, talking again to Bush, the former dissident clearly had gotten the message. Havel said he might have been misunderstood, that he certainly saw the value of U.S. engagement in Europe. For his part, Bush raised the possibilities, assuming more Czechoslovak cooperation on this issue, of U.S. investment and aid.

Memorandum of conversation between Vaclav Havel and George Bush in Washington.

George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, Memcons and Telcons (

This memcon after Havel’s triumphant speech to Congress contains Bush’s request to Havel to pass the message to Gorbachev that the Americans support him personally, and that “We will not conduct ourselves in the wrong way by saying ‘we win, you lose.’” Emphasizing the point, Bush says, “tell Gorbachev that … I asked you to tell Gorbachev that we will not conduct ourselves regarding Czechoslovakia or any other country in a way that would complicate the problems he has so frankly discussed with me.” The Czechoslovak leader adds his own caution to the Americans about how to proceed with the unification of Germany and address Soviet insecurities. Havel remarks to Bush, “It is a question of prestige. This is the reason why I talked about the new European security system without mentioning NATO. Because, if it grew out of NATO, it would have to be named something else, if only because of the element of prestige. If NATO takes over Germany, it will look like defeat, one superpower conquering another. But if NATO can transform itself – perhaps in conjunction with the Helsinki process – it would look like a peaceful process of change, not defeat.” Bush responded positively: “You raised a good point. Our view is that NATO would continue with a new political role and that we would build on the CSCE process. We will give thought on how we might proceed.”

Memorandum of Conversation between Helmut Kohl and George Bush at Camp David.

George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, Memcons and Telcons (

The Bush administration’s main worry about German unification as the process accelerated in February 1990 was that the West Germans might make their own deal bilaterally with the Soviets (see Document 11) and might be willing to bargain away NATO membership. President Bush later commented that the purpose of the Camp David meeting with Kohl was to “keep Germany on the NATO reservation,” and that drove the agenda for this set of meetings. The German chancellor arrives at Camp David without Genscher because the latter does not entirely share the Bush-Kohl position on full German membership in NATO, and he recently angered both leaders by speaking publicly about the CSCE as the future European security mechanism.[11]

At the beginning of this conversation, Kohl expresses gratitude for Bush and Baker’s support during his discussions with Gorbachev in Moscow in early February, especially for Bush’s letter stating Washington’s strong commitment to German unification in NATO. Both leaders express the need for the closest cooperation between them in order to reach the desired outcome. Bush’s priority is to keep the U.S. presence, especially the nuclear umbrella, in Europe: “if U.S. nuclear forces are withdrawn from Germany, I don’t see how we can persuade any other ally on the continent to retain these weapons.” He refers sarcastically to criticisms coming from Capitol Hill: “We have weird thinking in our Congress today, ideas like this peace dividend. We can’t do that in these uncertain times.” Both leaders are concerned about the position Gorbachev might take and agree on the need to consult with him regularly. Kohl suggests that the Soviets need assistance and the final arrangement on Germany could be a “matter of cash.” Foreshadowing his reluctance to contribute financially, Bush replies, “you have deep pockets.” At one point in the conversation, Bush seems to view his Soviet counterpart not as a partner but as a defeated enemy. Referring to talk in some Soviet quarters against Germany staying in NATO, he says: “To hell with that. We prevailed and they didn’t. We cannot let the Soviets clutch victory from the jaws of defeat.”

Memorandum of conversation between George Bush and Eduard Shevardnadze in Washington.

George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, Memcons and Telcons (

Foreign Minister Shevardnadze delivers a letter to Bush from Gorbachev, in which the Soviet president reviews the main issues before the coming summit. Economic issues are at the top of the list for the Soviet Union, specifically Most Favored Nation status and a trade agreement with the United States. Shevardnadze expresses concern about the lack of progress on these issues and the U.S. efforts to prevent the EBRD from extending loans to the USSR. He stresses that they are not asking for help, “we are only looking to be treated as partners.” Addressing the tensions in Lithuania, Bush says that he does not want to create difficulties for Gorbachev on domestic issues, but notes that he must insist on the rights of Lithuanians because their incorporation within the USSR was never recognized by the United States. On arms control, both sides point to some backtracking by the other and express a desire to finalize the START Treaty quickly. Shevardnadze mentions the upcoming CSCE summit and the Soviet expectation that it will discuss the new European security structures. Bush does not contradict this but ties it to the issues of the U.S. presence in Europe and German unification in NATO. He declares that he wants to “contribute to stability and to the creation of a Europe whole and free, or as you call it, a common European home. A[n] idea that is very close to our own.” The Soviets—wrongly—interpret this as a declaration that the U.S. administration shares Gorbachev’s idea.
Sir R. Braithwaite (Moscow). Telegraphic N. 667: “Secretary of State’s Meeting with President Gorbachev.”
Source: Documents on British Policy Overseas, series III, volume VII: German Unification, 1989-1990. (Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Documents on British Policy Overseas, edited by Patrick Salmon, Keith Hamilton, and Stephen Twigge, Oxford and New York, Routledge 2010), pp. 373-375

Ambassador Braithwaite’s telegram summarizes the meeting between Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Douglas Hurd and President Gorbachev, noting Gorbachev’s “expansive mood.” Gorbachev asks the secretary to pass his appreciation for Margaret Thatcher’s letter to him after her summit with Kohl, at which, according to Gorbachev, she followed the lines of policy Gorbachev and Thatcher discussed in their recent phone call, on the basis of which the Soviet leader concluded that “the British and Soviet positions were very close indeed.” Hurd cautions Gorbachev that their positions are not 100% in agreement, but that the British “recognized the importance of doing nothing to prejudice Soviet interests and dignity.” Gorbachev, as reflected in Braithwaite’s summary, speaks about the importance of building new security structures as a way of dealing with the issue of two Germanies: “If we are talking about a common dialogue about a new Europe stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals, that was one way of dealing with the German issue.” That would require a transitional period to pick up the pace of the European process and “synchronise it with finding a solution to the problem of the two Germanies.” However, if the process was unilateral – only Germany in NATO and no regard for Soviet security interest – the Supreme Soviet would be very unlikely to approve such a solution and the Soviet Union would question the need to speed up the reduction of its conventional weapons in Europe. In his view, Germany’s joining NATO without progress on European security structures “could upset the balance of security, which would be unacceptable to the Soviet Union.”

Valentin Falin Memorandum to Mikhail Gorbachev (Excerpts)
Source: Mikhail Gorbachev i germanskii vopros, edited by Alexander Galkin and Anatoly Chernyaev, (Moscow: Ves Mir, 2006), pp. 398-408

This memorandum from the Central Committee’s most senior expert on Germany sounds like a wake-up call for Gorbachev. Falin puts it in blunt terms: while Soviet European policy has fallen into inactivity and even “depression” after the March 18 elections in East Germany, and Gorbachev himself has let Kohl speed up the process of unification, his compromises on Germany in NATO can only lead to the slipping away of his main goal for Europe – the common European home. “Summing up the past six months, one has to conclude that the ‘common European home,’ which used to be a concrete task the countries of the continent were starting to implement, is now turning into a mirage.” While the West is sweet-talking Gorbachev into accepting German unification in NATO, Falin notes (correctly) that “the Western states are already violating the consensus principle by making preliminary agreements among themselves” regarding German unification and the future of Europe that do not include a “long phase of constructive development.” He notes the West’s “intensive cultivation of not only NATO but also our Warsaw Pact allies” with the goal to isolate the USSR in the Two-Plus-Four and CSCE framework.

He further comments that reasonable voices are no longer heard: “Genscher from time to time continues to discuss accelerating the movement toward European collective security with the ‘dissolving of NATO and WTO into it.’ ... But very few people … hear Genscher.” Falin proposes using the Soviet Four-power rights to achieve a formal legally binding settlement equal to a peace treaty that would guarantee Soviet security interests as “our only chance to dock German unification with the pan-European process.” He also suggests using arms control negotiations in Vienna and Geneva as leverage if the West keeps taking advantage of Soviet flexibility. The memo suggests specific provisions for the final settlement with Germany, the negotiation of which would take a long time and provide a window for building European structures. But the main idea of the memo is to warn Gorbachev not to be naive about the intentions of his American partners: “The West is outplaying us, promising to respect the interests of the USSR, but in practice, step by step, separating us from ‘traditional Europe.’”

James A. Baker III, Memorandum for the President, “My meeting with Shevardnadze.”
Source: George H. W. Bush Presidential Library, NSC Scowcroft Files, Box 91126, Folder “Gorbachev (Dobrynin) Sensitive 1989 – June 1990 [3]”

The secretary of state had just spent nearly four hours meeting with the Soviet foreign minister in Bonn on May 4, 1990, covering a range of issues but centering on the crisis in Lithuania and the negotiations over German unification. As in the February talks and throughout the year, Baker took pains to provide assurances to the Soviets about including them in the future of Europe. Baker reports, “I also used your speech and our recognition of the need to adapt NATO, politically and militarily, and to develop CSCE to reassure Shevardnadze that the process would not yield winners and losers. Instead, it would produce a new legitimate European structure – one that would be inclusive, not exclusive.” Shevardnadze’s response indicates that “our discussion of the new European architecture was compatible with much of their thinking, though their thinking was still being developed.” Baker relates that Shevardnadze “emphasized again the psychological difficulty they have – especially the Soviet public has – of accepting a unified Germany in NATO.” Astutely, Baker predicts that Gorbachev will not “take on this kind of an emotionally charged political issue now” and likely not until after the Party Congress in July.

Record of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and James Baker in Moscow.
Source: Gorbachev Foundation Archive, Fond 1, Opis 1.

This fascinating conversation covers a range of arms control issues in preparation for the Washington summit and includes extensive though inconclusive discussions of German unification and the tensions in the Baltics, particularly the standoff between Moscow and secessionist Lithuania. Gorbachev makes an impassioned attempt to persuade Baker that Germany should reunify outside of the main military blocs, in the context of the all-European process. Baker provides Gorbachev with nine points of assurance to prove that his position is being taken into account. Point eight is the most important for Gorbachev—that the United States is “making an effort in various forums to ultimately transform the CSCE into a permanent institution that would become an important cornerstone of a new Europe.”

This assurance notwithstanding, when Gorbachev mentions the need to build new security structures to replace the blocs, Baker lets slip a personal reaction that reveals much about the real U.S. position on the subject: “It’s nice to talk about pan-European security structures, the role of the CSCE. It is a wonderful dream, but just a dream. In the meantime, NATO exists. …” Gorbachev suggests that if the U.S. side insists on Germany in NATO, then he would “announce publicly that we want to join NATO too.” Shevardnadze goes further, offering a prophetic observation: “if united Germany becomes a member of NATO, it will blow up perestroika. Our people will not forgive us. People will say that we ended up the losers, not the winners.”

Record of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Francois Mitterrand (excerpts).
Source: Mikhail Gorbachev i germanskii vopros, edited by Alexander Galkin and Anatoly Chernyaev, (Moscow: Ves Mir, 2006), pp. 454-466

Gorbachev felt that of all the Europeans, the French president was his closest ally in the construction of a post-Cold War Europe, because the Soviet leader believed Mitterrand shared his concept of the common European home and the idea of dissolving both military blocs in favor of new European security structures. And Mitterrand did share that view, to an extent. In this conversation, Gorbachev is still hoping to persuade his counterpart to join him in opposing German unification in NATO. Mitterrand is quite direct, telling Gorbachev that it is too late to fight this issue and that he would not give his support, because “if I say ‘no’ to Germany’s membership in NATO, I will become isolated from my Western partners.” However, Mitterrand suggests that Gorbachev demand “appropriate guarantees” from NATO. He speaks about the danger of isolating the Soviet Union in the new Europe and the need to “create security conditions for you, as well as European security as a whole. This was one of my guiding goals, particularly when I proposed my idea of creating a European confederation. It is similar to your concept of a common European home.” 

In his recommendations to Gorbachev, Mitterrand is basically repeating the lines of the Falin memo (see Document 16). He says Gorbachev should strive for a formal settlement with Germany using his Four-power rights and use the leverage of conventions arms control negotiations: “You will not abandon such a trump card as disarmament negotiations.” He implies that NATO is not the key issue now and could be drowned out in further negotiations; rather, the important thing is to ensure Soviet participation in new European security system. He repeats that he is “personally in favor of gradually dismantling the military blocs.”

Gorbachev expresses his wariness and suspicion about U.S. effort to “perpetuate NATO,” to “use NATO to create some sort of mechanism, an institution, a kind of directory for managing world affairs.” He tells Mitterrand about his concern that the U.S. is trying to attract East Europeans to NATO: “I told Baker: we are aware of your favorable attitude towards the intention expressed by a number of representatives of Eastern European countries to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and subsequently join NATO.” What about the USSR joining? 

Mitterrand agrees to support Gorbachev in his efforts to encourage pan-European processes and ensure that Soviet security interests are taken into account as long as he does not have to say “no” to the Germans. He says “I always told my NATO partners: make a commitment not to move NATO’s military formations from their current territory in the FRG to East Germany.”

Letter from Francois Mitterrand to George Bush
Source: George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, NSC Scowcroft Files, FOIA 2009-0275-S

True to his word, Mitterrand writes a letter to George Bush describing Gorbachev’s predicament on the issue of German unification in NATO, calling it genuine, not “fake or tactical.” He warns the American president against doing it as a fait accompli without Gorbachev’s consent implying that Gorbachev might retaliate on arms control (exactly what Mitterrand himself – and Falin earlier – suggested in his conversation). Mitterrand argues in favor of a formal “peace settlement in International law,” and informs Bush that in his conversation with Gorbachev he “indicated that, on the Western side, we would certainly not refuse to detail the guarantees that he would have a right to expect for his country’s security.” Mitterrand thinks that “we must try to dispel Mr. Gorbatchev’s worries,” and offers to present “ a number of proposals” about such guarantees when he and Bush meet in person.

Record of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush. White House, Washington D.C.
Source: Gorbachev Foundation Archive, Moscow, Fond 1, opis 1.[12]
In this famous “two anchor” discussion, the U.S. and Soviet delegations deliberate over the process of German unification and especially the issue of a united Germany joining NATO. Bush tries to persuade his counterpart to reconsider his fears of Germany based on the past, and to encourage him to trust the new democratic Germany. The U.S. president says, “Believe me, we are not pushing Germany towards unification, and it is not us who determines the pace of this process. And of course, we have no intention, even in our thoughts, to harm the Soviet Union in any fashion. That is why we are speaking in favor of German unification in NATO without ignoring the wider context of the CSCE, taking the traditional economic ties between the two German states into consideration. Such a model, in our view, corresponds to the Soviet interests as well.” Baker repeats the nine assurances made previously by the administration, including that the United States now agrees to support the pan-European process and transformation of NATO in order to remove the Soviet perception of threat. Gorbachev’s preferred position is Germany with one foot in both NATO and the Warsaw Pact—the “two anchors”—creating a kind of associated membership. Baker intervenes, saying that “the simultaneous obligations of one and the same country toward the WTO and NATO smack of schizophrenia.” After the U.S. president frames the issue in the context of the Helsinki agreement, Gorbachev proposes that the German people have the right to choose their alliance—which he in essence already affirmed to Kohl during their meeting in February 1990. Here, Gorbachev significantly exceeds his brief, and incurs the ire of other members of his delegation, especially the official with the German portfolio, Valentin Falin, and Marshal Sergey Akhromeyev. Gorbachev issues a key warning about the future: “if the Soviet people get an impression that we are disregarded in the German question, then all the positive processes in Europe, including the negotiations in Vienna [over conventional forces], would be in serious danger. This is not just bluffing. It is simply that the people will force us to stop and to look around.” It is a remarkable admission about domestic political pressures from the last Soviet leader.
Letter from Mr. Powell (N. 10) to Mr. Wall: Thatcher-Gorbachev memorandum of conversation.
Source: Documents on British Policy Overseas, series III, volume VII: German Unification, 1989-1990. (Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Documents on British Policy Overseas, edited by Patrick Salmon, Keith Hamilton, and Stephen Twigge, Oxford and New York, Routledge 2010), pp 411-417

Margaret Thatcher visits Gorbachev right after he returns home from his summit with George Bush. Among many issues in the conversation, the center of gravity is on German unification and NATO, on which, Powell notes, Gorbachev’s “views were still evolving.” Rather than agreeing on German unification in NATO, Gorbachev talks about the need for NATO and the Warsaw pact to move closer together, from confrontation to cooperation to build a new Europe: “We must mould European structures so that they helped us find the common European home. Neither side must be afraid of unorthodox solutions.”

While Thatcher speaks against Gorbachev’s ideas short of full NATO membership for Germany and emphasizes the importance of a U.S. military presence in Europe, she also sees that “CSCE could provide the umbrella for all this, as well as being the forum which brought the Soviet Union fully into discussion about the future of Europe.” Gorbachev says he wants to “be completely frank with the Prime Minister” that if the processes were to become one-sided, “there could be a very difficult situation [and the] Soviet Union would feel its security in jeopardy.” Thatcher responds firmly that it was in nobody’s interest to put Soviet security in jeopardy: “we must find ways to give the Soviet Union confidence that its security would be assured.”

Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl, Moscow (Excerpts).
Source: Mikhail Gorbachev i germanskii vopros, edited by Alexander Galkin and Anatoly Chernyaev, (Moscow: Ves Mir, 2006), pp. 495-504

This key conversation between Chancellor Kohl and President Gorbachev sets the final parameters for German unification. Kohl talks repeatedly about the new era of relations between a united Germany and the Soviet Union, and how this relationship would contribute to European stability and security. Gorbachev demands assurances on non-expansion of NATO: “we must talk about the nonproliferation of NATO military structures to the territory of the GDR, and maintaining Soviet troops there for a certain transition period.” The Soviet leader notes earlier in the conversation that NATO has already began transforming itself. For him, the pledge of NATO non-expansion to the territory of the GDR in spirit means that NATO would not take advantage of the Soviet willingness to compromise on Germany. He also demands that the status of Soviet troops in the GDR for the transition period be “regulated. It should not hang in the air, it needs a legal basis.” He hands Kohl Soviet considerations for a full-fledged Soviet-German treaty that would include such guarantees. He also wants assistance with relocating the troops and building housing for them. Kohl promises to do so as long as this assistance is not construed as “a program of German assistance to the Soviet Army.”

Talking about the future of Europe, Kohl alludes to NATO transformation: “We know what awaits NATO in the future, and I think you are now in the know as well.” Kohl also emphasizes that President Bush is aware and supportive of Soviet-German agreements and will play a key role in the building of the new Europe. Chernyaev sums up this meeting in his diary for July 15, 1990: “Today – Kohl. They are meeting at the Schechtel mansion on Alexei Tolstoy Street. Gorbachev confirms his agreement to unified Germany’s entry into NATO. Kohl is decisive and assertive. He leads a clean but tough game. And it is not the bait (loans) but the fact that it is pointless to resist here, it would go against the current of events, it would be contrary to the very realities that M.S. likes to refer to so much.”[13]

Memorandum of Telephone Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush
Source: George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, Memcons and Telcons ((

President Bush reaches out to Gorbachev immediately after the Kohl-Gorbachev meetings in Moscow and the Caucasus retreat of Arkhyz, which settled German unification, leaving only the financial arrangements for resolution in September. Gorbachev had not only made the deal with Kohl, but he had also survived and triumphed at the 28th Congress of the CPSU in early July, the last in the history of the Soviet Party. Gorbachev describes this time as “perhaps the most difficult and important period in my political life.” The Congress subjected the party leader to scathing criticism from both conservative Communists and the democratic opposition. He managed to defend his program and win reelection as general secretary, but he had very little to show from his engagement with the West, especially after ceding so much ground on German unification.

While Gorbachev fought for his political life as Soviet leader, the Houston summit of the G-7 had debated ways to help perestroika, but because of U.S. opposition to credits or direct economic aid prior to the enactment of serious free-market reforms, no concrete assistance package was approved; the group went no further than to authorize “studies” by the IMF and World Bank. Gorbachev counters that given enough resources the USSR “could move to a market economy,” otherwise, the country “will have to rely more on state-regulated measures.” In this phone call, Bush expands on Kohl’s security assurances and reinforces the message from the London Declaration: “So what we tried to do was to take account of your concerns expressed to me and others, and we did it in the following ways: by our joint declaration on non-aggression; in our invitation to you to come to NATO; in our agreement to open NATO to regular diplomatic contact with your government and those of the Eastern European countries; and our offer on assurances on the future size of the armed forces of a united Germany – an issue I know you discussed with Helmut Kohl. We also fundamentally changed our military approach on conventional and nuclear forces. We conveyed the idea of an expanded, stronger CSCE with new institutions in which the USSR can share and be part of the new Europe.”

September 12 Two-Plus-Four Ministerial in Moscow: Detailed account [includes text of the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany and Agreed Minute to the Treaty on the special military status of the GDR after unification]
Source: George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, NSC Condoleezza Rice Files, 1989-1990 Subject Files, Folder “Memcons and Telcons – USSR [1]”

Staffers in the European Bureau of the State Department wrote this document, practically a memcon, and addressed it to senior officials such as Robert Zoellick and Condoleezza Rice, based on notes taken by U.S. participants at the final ministerial session on German unification on September 12, 1990. The document features statements by all six ministers in the Two-Plus-Four process – Shevardnadze (the host), Baker, Hurd, Dumas, Genscher, and De Maiziere of the GDR – (much of which would be repeated in their press conferences after the event), along with the agreed text of the final treaty on German unification. The treaty codified what Bush had earlier offered to Gorbachev – “special military status” for the former GDR territory. At the last minute, British and American concerns that the language would restrict emergency NATO troop movements there forced the inclusion of a “minute” that left it up to the newly unified and sovereign Germany what the meaning of the word “deployed” should be. Kohl had committed to Gorbachev that only German NATO troops would be allowed on that territory after the Soviets left, and Germany stuck to that commitment, even though the “minute” was meant to allow other NATO troops to traverse or exercise there at least temporarily. Subsequently, Gorbachev aides such as Pavel Palazhshenko would point to the treaty language to argue that NATO expansion violated the “spirit” of this Final Settlement treaty.

U.S. Department of State, European Bureau: Revised NATO Strategy Paper for Discussion at Sub-Ungroup Meeting
Source: George H. W. Bush Presidential Library, NSC Heather Wilson Files, Box CF00293, Folder “NATO – Strategy (5)”

The Bush administration had created the “Ungroup” in 1989 to work around a series of personality conflicts at the assistant secretary level that had stalled the usual interagency process of policy development on arms control and strategic weapons. Members of the Ungroup, chaired by Arnold Kanter of the NSC, had the confidence of their bosses but not necessarily the concomitant formal title or official rank.[14] The Ungroup overlapped with a similarly ad hoc European Security Strategy Group, and this became the venue, soon after German unification was completed, for the discussion inside the Bush administration about the new NATO role in Europe and especially on NATO relations with countries of Eastern Europe. East European countries, still formally in the Warsaw Pact, but led by non-Communist governments, were interested in becoming full members of international community, looking to join the future European Union and potentially NATO. 

This document, prepared for a discussion of NATO’s future by a Sub-Ungroup consisting of representatives of the NSC, State Department, Joint Chiefs and other agencies, posits that "[a] potential Soviet threat remains and constitutes one basic justification for the continuance of NATO.” At the same time, in the discussion of potential East European membership in NATO, the review suggests that “In the current environment, it is not in the best interest of NATO or of the U.S. that these states be granted full NATO membership and its security guarantees.” The United States does not “wish to organize an anti-Soviet coalition whose frontier is the Soviet border” – not least because of the negative impact this might have on reforms in the USSR. NATO liaison offices would do for the present time, the group concluded, but the relationship will develop in the future. In the absence of the Cold War confrontation, NATO “out of area” functions will have to be redefined.

James F. Dobbins, State Department European Bureau, Memorandum to National Security Council: NATO Strategy Review Paper for October 29 Discussion.
Source: George H. W. Bush Presidential Library: NSC Philip Zelikow Files, Box CF01468, Folder “File 148 NATO Strategy Review No. 1 [3]”[15]
This concise memorandum comes from the State Department’s European Bureau as a cover note for briefing papers for a scheduled October 29, 1990 meeting on the issues of NATO expansion and European defense cooperation with NATO. Most important is the document’s summary of the internal debate within the Bush administration, primarily between the Defense Department (specifically the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney) and the State Department. On the issue of NATO expansion, OSD “wishes to leave the door ajar” while State “prefers simply to note that discussion of expanding membership is not on the agenda….” The Bush administration effectively adopts State’s view in its public statements, yet the Defense view would prevail in the next administration.
Ambassador Rodric Braithwaite diary, 05 March 1991
Source: Rodric Braithwaite personal diary (used by permission from the author)
British Ambassador Rodric Braithwaite was present for a number of the assurances given to Soviet leaders in 1990 and 1991 about NATO expansion. Here, Braithwaite in his diary describes a meeting between British Prime Minister John Major and Soviet military officials, led by Minister of Defense Marshal Dmitry Yazov. The meeting took place during Major’s visit to Moscow and right after his one-on-one with President Gorbachev. During the meeting with Major, Gorbachev had raised his concerns about the new NATO dynamics: “Against the background of favorable processes in Europe, I suddenly start receiving information that certain circles intend to go on further strengthening NATO as the main security instrument in Europe. Previously they talked about changing the nature of NATO, about transformation of the existing military-political blocs into pan-European structures and security mechanisms. And now suddenly again [they are talking about] a special peace-keeping role of NATO. They are talking again about NATO as the cornerstone. This does not sound complementary to the common European home that we have started to build.” Major responded: “I believe that your thoughts about the role of NATO in the current situation are the result of misunderstanding. We are not talking about strengthening of NATO. We are talking about the coordination of efforts that is already happening in Europe between NATO and the West European Union, which, as it is envisioned, would allow all members of the European Community to contribute to enhance [our] security.”[16] In the meeting with the military officials that followed, Marshal Yazov expressed his concerns about East European leaders’ interest in NATO membership. In the diary, Braithwaite writes: “Major assures him that nothing of the sort will happen.” Years later, quoting from the record of conversation in the British archives, Braithwaite recounts that Major replied to Yazov that he “did not himself foresee circumstances now or in the future where East European countries would become members of NATO.” Ambassador Braithwaite also quotes Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd as telling Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh on March 26, 1991, “there are no plans in NATO to include the countries of Eastern and Central Europe in NATO in one form or another.”[17]
Paul Wolfowitz Memoranda of Conversation with Vaclav Havel and Lubos Dobrovsky in Prague.
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, FOIA release 2016, National Security Archive FOIA 20120941DOD109

These memcons from April 1991 provide the bookends for the “education of Vaclav Havel” on NATO (see Documents 12-1 and 12-2 above). U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz included these memcons in his report to the NSC and the State Department about his attendance at a conference in Prague on “The Future of European Security,” on April 24-27, 1991. During the conference Wolfowitz had separate meetings with Havel and Minister of Defense Dobrovsky. In the conversation with Havel, Wolfowitz thanks him for his statements about the importance of NATO and US troops in Europe. Havel informs him that Soviet Ambassador Kvitsinsky was in Prague negotiating a bilateral agreement, and the Soviets wanted the agreement to include a provision that Czechoslovakia would not join alliances hostile to the USSR. Wolfowitz advises both Havel and Dobrovsky not to enter into such agreements and to remind the Soviets about the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act that postulate freedom to join alliances of their choice. Havel states that for Czechoslovakia in the next 10 years that means NATO and the European Union. 

In conversation with Dobrovsky, Wolfowitz remarks that “the very existence of NATO was in doubt a year ago,” but with U.S. leadership, and NATO allied (as well as united German) support, its importance for Europe is now understood, and the statements of East European leaders were important in this respect. Dobrovsky candidly describes the change in the Czechoslovak leadership’s position, “which had revised its views radically. At the beginning, President Havel had urged the dissolution of both the Warsaw Pact and NATO,” but then concluded that NATO should be maintained. “Off the record,” says Dobrovsky, “the CSFR was attracted to NATO because it ensured the U.S. presence in Europe.”

Memorandum to Boris Yeltsin from Russian Supreme Soviet delegation to NATO HQs
Source: State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), Fond 10026, Opis 1

This document is important for describing the clear message in 1991 from the highest levels of NATO – Secretary General Manfred Woerner – that NATO expansion was not happening. The audience was a Russian Supreme Soviet delegation, which in this memo was reporting back to Boris Yeltsin (who in June had been elected president of the Russian republic, largest in the Soviet Union), but no doubt Gorbachev and his aides were hearing the same assurance at that time. The emerging Russian security establishment was already worried about the possibility of NATO expansion, so in June 1991 this delegation visited Brussels to meet NATO’s leadership, hear their views about the future of NATO, and share Russian concerns. Woerner had given a well-regarded speech in Brussels in May 1990 in which he argued: “The principal task of the next decade will be to build a new European security structure, to include the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact nations. The Soviet Union will have an important role to play in the construction of such a system. If you consider the current predicament of the Soviet Union, which has practically no allies left, then you can understand its justified wish not to be forced out of Europe.”

Now in mid-1991, Woerner responds to the Russians by stating that he personally and the NATO Council are both against expansion—“13 out of 16 NATO members share this point of view”—and that he will speak against Poland’s and Romania’s membership in NATO to those countries’ leaders as he has already done with leaders of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Woerner emphasizes that “We should not allow […] the isolation of the USSR from the European community.” The Russian delegation warned that any strengthening or expanding of NATO could “seriously slow down democratic transformations” in Russia, and called on their NATO interlocutors to gradually decrease the military functions of the alliance. This memo on the Woerner conversation was written by three prominent reformers and close allies of Yeltsin—Sergey Stepashin (chairman of the Duma’s Security Committee and future deputy minister of Security and prime minister), Gen. Konstantin Kobets (future chief military inspector of Russia after he was the highest-ranking Soviet military officer to support Yeltsin during the August 1991 coup) and Gen. Dmitry Volkogonov (Yeltsin’s adviser on defense and security issues, future head of the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on POW-MIA and prominent military historian).


[1] See Robert Gates, University of Virginia, Miller Center Oral History, George H.W. Bush Presidency, July 24, 2000, p. 101)

[2] See Chapter 6, “The Malta Summit 1989,” in Svetlana Savranskaya and Thomas Blanton, The Last Superpower Summits (CEU Press, 2016), pp. 481-569. The comment about the Wall is on p. 538.

[3] For background, context, and consequences of the Tutzing speech, see Frank Elbe, “The Diplomatic Path to Germany Unity,” Bulletin of the German Historical Institute 46 (Spring 2010), pp. 33-46. Elbe was Genscher’s chief of staff at the time.

[4] See Mark Kramer, “The Myth of a No-NATO-Enlargement Pledge to Russia,” The Washington Quarterly, April 2009, pp. 39-61.

[5] See Joshua R. Itkowitz Shifrinson, “Deal or No Deal? The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Offer to Limit NATO Expansion,” International Security, Spring 2016, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 7-44.

[6] See James Goldgeier, Not Whether But When: The U.S. Decision to Enlarge NATO (Brookings Institution Press, 1999); and James Goldgeier, “Promises Made, Promises Broken? What Yeltsin was told about NATO in 1993 and why it matters,” War On The Rocks, July 12, 2016.

[7] See also Svetlana Savranskaya, Thomas Blanton, and Vladislav Zubok, “Masterpieces of History”: The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe, 1989 (CEU Press, 2010), for extended discussion and documents on the early 1990 German unification negotiations.

[8] Genscher told Baker on February 2, 1990, that under his plan, “NATO would not extend its territorial coverage to the area of the GDR nor anywhere else in Eastern Europe.” Secretary of State to US Embassy Bonn, “Baker-Genscher Meeting February 2,” George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, NSC Kanter Files, Box CF00775, Folder “Germany-March 1990.” Cited by Joshua R. Itkowitz Shifrinson, “Deal or No Deal? The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Offer to Limit NATO Expansion,” International Security, Spring 2016, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 7-44.

[9] See Andrei Grachev, Gorbachev’s Gamble (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2008), pp. 157-158.

[10] For an insightful account of Bush's highly effective educational efforts with East European leaders including Havel – as well as allies – see Jeffrey A. Engel, When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), pp. 353-359.

[11] See George H.W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed (New York: Knopf, 1998), pp. 236, 243, 250.

[12] Published in English for the first time in Savranskaya and Blanton, The Last Superpower Summits (2016), pp. 664-676.

[13] Anatoly Chernyaev Diary, 1990, translated by Anna Melyakova and edited by Svetlana Savranskaya, pp. 41-42.

[14] See Michael Nelson and Barbara A. Perry, 41: Inside the Presidency of George H.W. Bush (Cornell University Press, 2014), pp. 94-95.

[15] The authors thank Josh Shifrinson for providing his copy of this document.

[16] See Memorandum of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and John Major published in Mikhail Gorbachev, Sobranie Sochinenii, v. 24 (Moscow: Ves Mir, 2014), p. 346

[17] See Rodric Braithwaite, “NATO enlargement: Assurances and misunderstandings,” European Council on Foreign Relations, Commentary, 7 July 2016.

Excerpts from interview of Director of the Department for European Cooperation Andrey Kelin with Rossiya Segodnya, December 4, 2017

Question: Finland and Sweden are more often publicly speaking about the security threat coming from Russia. Their cooperation with NATO is deepening but they say they have no plans to join the alliance. Moscow is already talking at the top level about the consequences of Helsinki and Stockholm joining the organisation. Does Russia really believe that Finland and Sweden will eventually become NATO members?

Andrey Kelin: This is a difficult question. These countries work closely with NATO in the military sphere. This has been going on for many years. This is nothing new. We are aware of this and watch the trends closely. These countries hold joint exercises and their representatives participate in NATO governing bodies meetings. We know that NATO would like to make this cooperation so close as to draw them into its orbit. However, we also know that there are independent influences in both Helsinki and Stockholm that are opposed to NATO membership and believe in preserving the status quo. For our part, we see opportunities – and they are being used – for strengthening security in the Baltic region on a non-NATO basis. This is especially important today when there are significantly more warships and warplanes in the Baltic region and therefore more possibilities for military incidents. Our Swedish partners confirmed to me in recent consultations that since ICAO adopted a code of conduct for state aviation, which is part of military aviation, tensions have eased and no air incidents have been recorded recently.

Question: Are we sure that NATO will continue to expand?

Andrey Kelin: Washington’s main efforts are currently focused on bringing in the western Balkans and after Montenegro, drawing other countries in. To this end, enormous efforts are being made, including political pressure, as was the case in Montenegro, and interference in domestic affairs, which is a violation of the Helsinki principles. So we are aware of this political pressure.

Question: Should we expect the alliance to expand further?

Andrey Kelin: NATO has an open-door policy. We certainly cannot ignore this, since any wave of NATO expansion is a compounding factor in European security, especially when relations are so bad.

From the interview of Ambassador Alexander Grushko to Izvestia newspaper, 8 November 2017

Most recently Montenegro has joined the Alliance. The Ukrainian leadership has announced its intention to join NATO. There are such discussions among Georgian authorities. Are there any other candidates? What are the prospects for the next stage of NATO enlargement and when can it happen?

Alexander Grushko: Our attitude remains unchanged - the policy of NATO enlargement was vicious from the very beginning and has reached its limits. This geopolitical project, implemented in violation of promises that NATO would not move “an inch” to the East, hasn't solved any real problem of the European continent. By the way, many political analysts have already called it the greatest US miscalculation in the 20th century. On the contrary, this policy deepens the dividing lines, creates new ones, incites the search for an enemy. In the current circumstances, it is impossible to create ‘island of security for the chosen’. What we need is a collective security system that would promote the combination, and not the separation of efforts to combat new threats and risks, and would contribute to building a fair world order.

Interview was published by "Izvestia" on 8 November 2017:

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal State University, Kaliningrad, June 6, 2017

Question: Will Europe’s geopolitical image change in the context of Montenegro’s recent NATO entry? If so, what will happen to our relations with Montenegro?

Sergey Lavrov: We have talked about this, before the formal decision on Montenegro’s joining NATO was adopted. This issue was predetermined.

NATO’s expansion towards the East or elsewhere does not have a positive effect on pan-European security. In the late 1990s the leaders of the European countries, and the United States and Canada vowed and declared indivisible security in principle. They said security can only be common, equal and indivisible and that nobody should take steps that will impinge on the security of others. This is written on paper, in the documents of the OSCE and top-level meetings of the NATO-Russia Council. This isn’t about keeping military-political blocs, but building a common legal foundation that will put all Euro-Atlantic countries on equal footing.

Montenegro’s accession to NATO and the waves of NATO expansion in the past 15 years show that they do not want common and equal security. Indeed, when we proposed signing a treaty that would legally seal the guarantees of indivisible security they refused, saying they were ready to offer legal guarantees only to those that join NATO. This is how countries, including several in central and Eastern Europe, were tempted by NATO membership. Later, sights began to be set on the post-Soviet space. They declared at the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008 that Georgia and Ukraine would join the alliance and in the same year Mikheil Saakashvili was apparently encouraged by this statement and took action and tried to get away with it. He began to attack his own people. South Ossetia was part of Georgia and they had a conflict but it was regulated by OSCE agreements and there were peacekeepers. Saakashvili lost his mind when he heard he could join NATO. Three years ago Ukrainian radicals also decided they could do everything they wanted and staged a coup. We have seen the consequences of such crazy promises.

NATO has long been looking at the Balkans and wants to incorporate the entire region in its structure. As for pan-European security and NATO expansion, including Montenegro, they are preserving the dividing lines rather than eliminating them as they promised. Montenegro’s accession does not enhance the security of the North Atlantic Alliance in any way. The only difference is that now Montenegro will also have to be defended while in reality they will simply deploy additional elements of military infrastructure there. There are nice bays there – something to get a good haul. I doubt that Montenegro’s security will increase. Nobody has ever planned to attack it.

When the former Yugoslavia was falling to pieces the Union of Serbia and Montenegro was its only surviving part. This union was “knocked together” by Brussels that engineered the signing of a document between Belgrade and Podgorica, according to which they were supposed to remain a single union state for three years and upon the expiration of this term each of them was supposed to hold a referendum on how they would live – together or separately. After three years, the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Xavier Solana suddenly became alarmed and began asking us to persuade the Montenegrins not to hold a referendum on independence. We asked him what Russia had to do with this. We were told that they would listen to us, because we had a common history, that they remembered how we helped them in many wars, rid them from the Turkish yoke and liberated them during World War II. At that point I asked him why after signing this document and persuading them to take a pause for three years. There was no answer. I asked him why they did not do anything during these three years.

During this time they hoped to open the road to EU membership for Serbia and Montenegro but nothing was done. And they started to ask us to persuade the Montenegrins not to follow the path of independence. We refused, saying this was their right. Montenegrins thanked us a lot at that time. As for their current leaders, it is not that they appeared to be ungrateful but they got into a serious predicament. At one time, a long time ago they had problems with law and a number of European states had claims against them, including criminal claims. I think this played a definite rather than decisive role in that the Montenegrins succumbed to persuasion to join NATO.

Their desire to distance themselves from the Russian Federation also played a role. I do not know why. This is indeed a step that does not enhance the security of either the entire Euro-Atlantic community, or NATO or Montenegro. Joining NATO can’t be justified by Moscow’s alleged intrigues, interference in their elections, by sending spies or infiltrators, or the recruitment of political figures. The Russophobic campaign launched against the backdrop of NATO entry shows that Montenegro does not care about any European principles but merely wants to sell its anti-Russian statements for more. Let God be their judge but we cannot ignore this.

I hear the number of Russian visitors to Montenegro has dropped by about 20 percent. We are simply warning them that their Russophobic attitudes have gone over the top. It happens in many European countries that our compatriots are captured and taken overseas. This is also a fact that must be considered.

Let me repeat that today Montenegro is not safe in this sense although I love it very much. Its nature is great and its people are wonderful but their current leaders are trying to change our relations.

Comment by the Information and Press Department on the completion of the procedure of Montenegro’s accession to NATO

On June 5, the procedure of Montenegro’s accession to NATO will be officially completed in Washington, DC.

We took notice of the latest volley of disinformation and propaganda clichés that Podgorica directed at Russia on the eve of this event.

The continued anti-Russian hysteria in Podgorica is only met with regret in Russia. Given the hostile line taken by Montenegro’s authorities, Russia reserves the right to take response measures on the basis of reciprocity. As in physics, in politics for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. 

Montenegro is fully responsible for the current situation. In response to Montenegro’s unprovoked eagerness to join the EU’s anti-Russian sanctions in March 2014 the Russian Federation took symmetrical steps in August 2015.


Comment by the Information and Press Department on the vote in Skupstina on Montenegro’s accession to NATO, 28 April 2017

In the wake of the vote in parliament on April 28 approving Montenegro’s accession to NATO, it is with deep regret that we must acknowledge that the country’s current leadership and its Western sponsors ultimately failed to heed the voice of reason and conscience. The adoption of fundamental acts, affecting core issues of national security, with a bare majority of individual MPs cobbled together in defiance of the opinion of the people of the country openly flouts all democratic norms and principles.

Those who voted in Skupstina to support NATO accession, citing the alleged Russian threat as a pretext, will bear responsibility for the consequences of plans implemented by external forces seeking to deepen the existing dividing lines in Europe and the Balkans and fracture the foundations of the deep-rooted historical traditions of friendship of the Montenegrins with the Serbs and the Russians. The shameful episodes of NATO’s illegal bombing of Yugoslavia, which caused casualties among Montenegrins as well, including children, were hypocritically interpreted in such a way as to suggest that Serbia was to blame because it confronted the alliance. The will of almost half of the country’s population, who oppose such NATO-oriented foreign policy priorities, was ignored. How utterly cynical one has to be to declare that there is no need to ask the opinion of the people for such a decision, as Montenegro’s President Filip Vujanovic said a few days ago.

Given Montenegro’s capabilities, it will hardly be a significant “added value” for the North Atlantic alliance. Even so, Moscow cannot disregard the strategic consequences of this move. Therefore, faced with this situation, we reserve the right to take decisions to safeguard our interests and national security.

From the interview of Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov to Interfax News Agency, April 22, 2017

Question: Given that Donald Trump approved Montenegro’s membership into NATO and that the Montenegrin parliament will hold a vote, on April 28, on the country’s accession to the alliance, do we think that this is a threat to Russian security? How does Moscow assess this and what measures are being prepared?

Alexey Meshkov: It is no secret and it was repeatedly stated that the most important issues in the life of this or that country should be decided by their peoples. This is what the democratic process is all about. In this case, it is the Montenegrin people’s right to decide in a referendum whether they want their country to join NATO or not.

As far as our relations are concerned, not only their accession to NATO as such but also a number of steps taken by the Montenegrin leaders – that they joined the anti-Russian sanctions and the anti-Russian smear campaigns in the local media – are certainly having and will inevitably have a negative effect on the entire range of Russia-Montenegro ties.

Comment by the Information and Press Department on US President Donald Trump signing the US instrument of ratification of the protocol on Montenegro’s accession to NATO, 13 April 2017

On April 11, US President Donald Trump signed the US instrument of ratification of the protocol on Montenegro’s accession to NATO, which had been earlier approved by the US Senate.

We view this step as a sign of inertia in Washington’s policies and a reflection of the logic of confrontation in Europe, where new dividing lines are being drawn.

We state that the effort to involve Montenegro in NATO disregards the real opinion of this Balkan country’s people. Millions of dollars are allocated to support pro-NATO puppet NGO’s in order to create an illusion that the Montenegrin leaders’ lop-sided course enjoys broad popular support.

We note that there is growing criticism of the efforts to sneak Montenegro into NATO even in the United States, where people justly doubt that this step will benefit the alliance itself and strengthen European security.

We regard the policy of including Montenegro in NATO as profoundly erroneous; it runs counter to the core interests of the people of that country and is damaging for the stability of the Balkans and Europe as a whole.

Excerpts from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s address and answers to questions at the 53rd Munich Security Conference, Munich, February 18, 2017

18.02.2017 19:50

NATO expansion has created a level of tension in Europe unseen in the last thirty years. Yet this year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Russia-NATO Founding Act in Paris, and 15 years since the Rome Declaration on a new quality of Russia-NATO relations was adopted. These documents’ basic premise was that Russia and the West took on a joint commitment to guarantee security on the basis of respect for each other’s interests, to strengthen mutual trust, prevent a Euro-Atlantic split and erase dividing lines. This did not happen, above all because NATO remained a Cold War institution. It is said that wars start in people’s heads, but according to this logic, it is also in people’s heads that they should end. This is not the case yet with the Cold War. Some statements by politicians in Europe and the United States seem to confirm this particularly clearly, including statements made here yesterday and today during this conference.

From the briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, June 10, 2016

10.06.2016 19:54

Western guarantees of NATO’s non-expansion to the east

There is another theme that has been raised by our past and present US colleagues: It is their circulation of the idea that Russia is responsible for NATO’s eastward expansion. There is a dualism here. On the one hand, there are official representatives of government agencies and former US diplomatic representatives who spare no effort in shifting the responsibility for everything onto Russia. On the other hand, there are people active in the media who belong to what is known as old-school diplomacy with its intellect, responsibility and analytical approach. It appears that two concepts are duelling in the media, Internet and social networks.

We have noted an interview of France’s former Foreign Minister Roland Dumas carried by the Foreign Affairs magazine, where he comes down on the United States for breaking its political pledge not to expand NATO to the east. During the unification of Germany, the powers agreed that NATO troops would not approach the former borders of the communist world. Now, the diplomat says, Americans allege that it was not so and the obligation was not recorded in writing. Roland Duma says that it does not matter at all. What really matters is public mentality. At that time, there was talk of easing tensions, which supposes the withdrawal of troops and arms as far as possible. Now we have to state that the United States and NATO did not keep their word. One can also remark cynically that NATO survives while the Warsaw Treaty Organisation was disbanded.

I would also like to site the views of another French spokesman, incumbent Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who told the same magazine that there had certainly been some misunderstood gestures, for instance, the way the United States organised NATO’s expansion during George Bush’s presidency. The Russians may have regarded it as provocation rather than response to the interested countries’ lawful wishes. The diplomat says that they can reproach themselves on the loss of historical intuition. Some people wanted the collapse of the USSR to spell the end of history. Now, he says, we know that this was not so.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger spoke in the same vein in an interview to the Mezhdunarodnoye Obozreniye television programme. Specifically, he pointed out the absence of relevant formal documents and admitted that the Russian leadership received informal comments. He believes that the Russian leaders cannot be accused of inventing such comments.

As for NATO’s expansion closer to the Russian borders, he thinks it cannot be justified by the illusory Russian threat to certain Eastern European countries. The American diplomat and political expert says it must be realised that Russia should not be treated as a country that is out to finish NATO.

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, June 10, 2016

From the briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Sochi, May 19, 2016

19.05.2016 19:10

Question: Can you comment on the NATO foreign ministers signing an accession protocol with Montenegro on the sidelines of the NATO Council meeting in Brussels?

Maria Zakharova: Our negative attitude to this “open door” policy does not depend on current conditions but is based on the unfavourable political and military consequences of the past phases of the alliance’s expansion. Suffice it to recall how attempts were made over several years to convince us that the accession of the Eastern European and Baltic countries to NATO would improve our bilateral relations, cure their phobias of a “negative heritage” and create a belt of NATO countries that are friendly towards Russia. In fact, the bloc’s expansion has only aggravated the “frontline country syndrome,” and today not only these countries’ foreign policies but also their domestic policies are largely based on the assumption that they need “special” protection.

As for the signing of the accession protocol on Montenegro joining the Washington Treaty, it is fresh evidence of Brussels’ desire to accelerate the accession process and make it irreversible. The continued efforts to draw Podgorica into the alliance is based on secret agreements that have been signed with the Montenegrin leadership with disregard for the peoples’ opinion and in violation of democratic principles and procedures, the commitment to which NATO claimed to honour so strictly. Is there any other explanation for the Montenegrin authorities’ refusal to put up this issue for a national referendum? The only possible explanations are that the friendly Montenegrin people have not forgotten the barbarous NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia, and that the results of a free expression of people’s will could not be predetermined. It appears that it was decided to disregard the Montenegrins’ opinion on an issue that concerns NATO’s geopolitical ambitions.

This latest NATO move undertaken to change the military and political landscape in Europe, especially in light of the bloc’s declared policy of containing Russia, will definitely affect Russia’s interests and force us to react.

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Sochi, May 19, 2016

Montenegro to Force Troops to Join NATO Operations

03.02.2016 10:00

As one of the first moves in its upcoming accession negotiations with NATO, Montenegro's goverment is set to amend the defence laws and define participating in the alliance's military operations as mandatory for all troops.

According to the plan, changes to the law that define the use of Montenegrin army units in international operations will be completed by the end of March and sent to parliament.

BIRN has learned from the Ministry of Defence that the new law will abolish the principle of voluntary service abroad, which has been in force since 2010, when Montenegro joined the NATO-led ISAF operation in Afghanistan.

The possibility that soldiers could decide whether they want to be engaged in NATO operations - or not - was provided by the law adopted in 2008.

This was introduced as a compromise solution after only a few soldiers exhibited interest in joining NATO's multinational operation against the Taliban in Afghanistan, which was launched in 2003.

The new law will also prescribe which Montenegrin troops will be available for rapid intervention abroad if NATO allies so decide.

"Deployment will now be mandatory, which means that soldiers will have to go to Afghanistan, for example, or to some other NATO operation in future, if their superiors decide. Otherwise, they risk losing their jobs," a senior offical from the ministry told BIRN.

In February, Montenegro will begin accession negotiations with NATO, after it received an official invitation to join the club last December.

The obligations include modifying key security and defence laws, which must be adapted to NATO's collective defence system regulations.

A majority of Montenegrins still strongly opposes the country's military engagement in places like Afghanistan.

According to the some polls conducted by the Ministry of Defence, only 30 per cent of military personnel also consider taking part in NATO operations acceptable.

The government recently requested approval to contribute to NATO’s peace-keeping mission mission in Kosovo, KFOR, despite opposition from the large Serbian community, which bitterly opposes Montenegro's intention to join NATO.

In order to increase the number of soldiers who are willing to participate in NATO missions, the authorities have offered numerous benefits for those who are deployed abroad, such as higher wages and additional points in the ranking for the country’s housing fund.

After joining NATO in 2004 and 2008, Slovenia and Croatia also abolished voluntary participation in international missions. In Slovenia, dozens of soldiers lost their jobs in 2004 after refusing to go to Kosovo and join KFOR forces.

BIRN contacted the Ministry of Defence seeking a broader explanation of the plans concerning contributing to NATO operations, but it declined to comment.

Montenegro rebels against NATO and Djukanovic

26.01.2016 10:00

Since the autumn of 2015, Montenegro has been restless. The mass protests outside the government building in Podgorica have not subsided. The situation in the country is heating up with each passing day. The discontent of the people has accumulated over the years, and the patience of Montenegrins has turned into a crackdown on “democratic-civilized” rallies against the country’s entry into NATO at the end of October.

Over the past 24 hours in Podgorica, anti-government demonstrations have been chanting the slogans: “Montenegro against NATO and European integration“, “Traitor Milo Đukanović, need to overthrow the government,” “We love Russia and Putin“, reports News Front.

Residents of Podgorica, in their majority, are against the membership of Montenegro in NATO, the country’s integration into Europe, as well as the current government headed by Milo Djukanovic,who pushed for the Alliance and pushes for Europe, not reacting to the opinions of his people. In addition, activists insist that Montenegro should change the course towards Russia and advocate a military and economic union with Russia.

On January 24th, residents of Podgorica held an anti-government rally at the Parliament building at the same time Milo Djukanovic was holding a meeting.

The demonstration was held with the slogans: “Montenegro against NATO and European integration“, “the Traitor Milo đukanović, need to overthrow the government,” “We love Russia and Putin“, “We — the nightmare of Euroregio đukanović“.

It is noteworthy that when they began to broadcast the speech of the Prime Minister before the rest of the government, the crowd heard his voice and started to rebel even more. While Djukanovic spoke at the meeting, activists chanted “Milo – thief!”.

Montenegrins Trust in Djukanovic: the game wont end tomorrow

24.01.2016 22:27

Having made the decision to ask the Montenegrin Parliament about confidence toward his government, the Montenegrin PM Milo Djukanovic who spent 27 years in power knew there is a risk. Protests in the country do not cease since September. People protest against the continuing for more than a quarter century rule of Djukanovic, who over those years, had been the president, or either took a set of positions in the government, but was always the leading person in his small country, which he helped to sever from brotherly Serbia back in 2006.

Djukanovic's intention to drag the country into NATO without referendum pours more oil on the flames of popular discontent (back in December Montenegro received an official invitation from the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg). So, will Djukanovic be able to fulfill his plan: replace the referendum on accession to the alliance by a vote of confidence and then win?

Formally, the situation is hanging on by a thread: parliament consists of 82 members, the ruling coalition is presented by 44 MPs, but 5 members of the Social Democratic Party said they don't intend to vote for confidence in the government.

However, Djukanovic understands that Montenegro is not an island in the ocean, and external factors will play a large role on the situation in a small country with a population of about 600 thousand people. Now they are in favor of the "pro-NATO" vector.

First of all is the passive stance by montenegro's "big sister" Serbia. On New Years' Eve Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic said that Serbia "does not see a threat" in the possibility of Montenegro joining NATO. In fact Belgrade gives Podgorica the "green light" to enter NATO while maintaining neutral status (ruled out by a special decision of the Serbian authorities in 2007).

Secondly, NATO teased by Russia's attempts to slow Montenegro's movement into NATO by democratic methods (requirement of a referendum), bit between his teeth and is going for a direct confrontation with Russia over Montenegro. In this regard, an article by Edward Joseph, the director of the American Institute of current world events, published in Foreign Affairs magazine is quite exponential:

"By finally inviting Montenegro to join NATO, the treaty organization has taken a significant step toward ending Russian chicanery in this small but significant Balkan country. But it will have to act fast to secure its gains. If NATO fails to close the deal, Moscow will have an opening to further destabilize the region" - says Edward Joseph.

However, talking about Balkans' "destabilization" because of Moscow's actions Western analysts are lying so obviously that their own propaganda rush can play a cruel joke on them. Here, as they say, "lie, but don't lie like a gas meter."

Montenegro remembers well that in 1999 Serbia and Montenegro along with Kosovo were bombed by NATO and not Russia. Unlike Poland or the Baltic states, Montenegro managed had once been a real enemy of NATO, and realized how much cruel and bureaucratically dumb can this organization be. Because in 1999, Montenegro was already under pro-Western Djukanovic's rule, who fell out with Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, so hated by the West. Thus in 1999 he led to the separation of Montenegro from Serbia, through exiting from Yugoslavia, which by that time was represent but a pale shadow of Tito's SFRY (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). Nevertheless, despite oaths of loyalty to Djukanovic, NATO bombed Podgorica depriving the city of essential bridges.

It turns out that Russia's major trump cards in this situation are spiritual and psychological: Montenegrins memories of injustice carried out against them in 1999, loyalty of the most part of the population to the canonical Serbian Orthodox Church, and the positive attitude towards Russia. The situation in Montenegrin church reminds of Ukraine: Djukanovic has been trying to replace the local metropolitan canonical Serbian Orthodox Church for more than twenty years by unrecognized, separatist "Montenegrin Orthodox Church" led by defrocked Miras Dedeic (plucked from dignity former Serbian priest). As you can see, everything is very similar to the conflict of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), and the so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) led by defrocked anathematized priest Denisenko.

But had Russia fully used these trumps? For years Russian leadership was fed with Djukanovic's assurances of friendship, not responding to Montenegro's movement toward EU and NATO, showing no interest in the local church conflict. Same way the two-faced Ukrainian ex-President Leonid Kuchma managed to lull the fears of Boris Yeltsin. Saying he's a friend and European and North Atlantic "orientation" are simply details, unable to tarnish the overall positive picture.

Current revival of Russia from this dream is inevitable, although there is a reason to hope that this awakening in the aspect of Montenegro will be less painful than it was with Ukraine. Russia needs to make up a strategy to counter the anti-Russian "reformatting" of the Balkan region. And now the old formula - Russia is against NATO expansion, but not against EU expansion - just does not work anymore. It has long been evident that it's the "euroallied" anti-Russian discipline that does most economic damage to Russia and not NATO. But EU has not become a military alternative to NATO, but still has been as hostile toward Russia as the North Atlantic bloc.

Not NATO, but EU forces countries such as Italy, Greece and Cyprus to join the anti-Russian sanctions against the will of its own people. And Serbia under the charm of possible "EU membership" lets Montenegro join NATO and goes to de facto recognition of the regime in anti-Serb province of Kosovo.

If Russia stops ignoring its spiritual and psychological trump cards, if we step away from the costly principle of "just business, nothing personal" we took up in Ukraine - then we can hope for success. And then even democratic forces lose the vote of confidence in Djukanovic government - even then Montenegro will not be lost to us. Because the formula imposed by the West to the countries of the region: "Make the right choice - follow the West and not Russia" - is really just wrong, as it does not reflect reality. Severing ties with Russia does not mean a membership in the prosperous West, as success can only be brought by patient multi-vector development, in peace with neighbors and remembering its own historical past. The understanding of this simple truth will certainly come to the Balkans, and Russia simply has to help this knowledge find its way. The role of Russian state, public and patriotic organizations and the press can't be underestimated here. Banks, oil companies and the military are not accustomed to doing such work.

Not everything in the world is bought with money or obtained by weapons.

Tomorrow of Montenegro: the three scenarios

24.01.2016 22:11

Montenegrin people, tired of widespread poverty, unemployment and officials’ corruption, once again act in hope to overthrow Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and his office. Deputies of the Assembly (Parliament of Montenegro) are to hold a vote of no-confidence to the Cabinet on January 25. The government he needs the support of at least 41 deputies in order to stay in power. However, the majority of Montenegrins are hoping that this day will be a turning point in the history of their country.

Nikita Bondarev, the head of the group of Balkan Studies of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (RISS) forecasts the development of the situation in Montenegro for Russian Peacekeeper.

“As for now it is pretty difficult to assume the distribution of votes in the Assembly, since Djukanovic has a parliamentary majority. In spite of the active opposition, the Montenegrin prime minister is likely to come to terms once again with everyone, including the so-called swamp or people who use their parliamentary mandate only for their own enrichment”, - the expert believes.

According Bondarev, despite the justified overall criticism the Montenegrin prime minister should not be underestimated. He has almost unlimited financial resources due to the fact that his brother heads the State Bank of Montenegro. Thus Djukanovic might again outbid "the parliamentary quagmire" and guarantee a vote of confidence for himself and his cabinet on January 25.

If the required number of votes to send Cabinet to resign is not received, protests continue. "Dissatisfaction with Djukanovic and his policy is still growing. People will go out to express their discontent, and we should expect even greater numbers of protesters," - the scientist said.

Meanwhile, Bondarev notes that all the protests in Montenegro happen according to the same scenario. A huge number of people for such a small country like Montenegro coming out, block the city core of Podgorica in attempt to siege the building of the Assembly. In response, the police disperse protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets. Everyone break up, and then gather themselves up and protests resume. People will go to protest, and Djukanovic - to disperse them, the expert believes.

Meanwhile Bondarev suggested three feasible courses of action of the socio-political developments in Montenegro.

EU and NATO stop to support Djukanovic

Leaders of the European Union or NATO might decide that Djukanovic is no longer a suitable political figure for Montenegro on the way to "European choice". The current Montenegrin Prime-minister is an authoritarian politician who has been in power for last 27 years and was involved in numerous corruption scandals and criminal scams.

"Perhaps to lead Montenegro into the EU and NATO there should be other political person, who is younger and has less dark stories in the past days. The West understands that Djukanovic is not an ideal candidate to lead the country along with Europe and NATO ito the brighter future, - expert predicts. - However, in order to receive Europe’s silent consent that Djukanovic should go, the protest activities in the capital of Montenegro have to transform. As of now their are totally peaceful, but they may develop into something similar to what happened in Kiev on Maidan."

Gray Eminence comes out of the shadows

According to Nikita Bondarev, a Montenegrin tycoon named Brane Micunovic who controls the Montenegro’s shadow structures, resort business, real estate services literally everything that brings significant revenue to the country’s welfare may play a vital role in the events in Montenegro. "Micunovic can be called the godfather of Montenegrin criminal world. He has complex relations with Djukanovic: they were friends, then quarreled. After the mass protests against the government commenced, Micunovic took a pause, he supports neither Djukanovic nor protesting," - said the scientist.

In addition, Micunovic has its own private security company, employing tough guys mostly having army and special forces experience, some of them even served in the French Foreign Legion. Micunovic warriors combine into small private army. There are still inactive and do not support any of the warring parties.

"Micunovic is waiting for a certain signal, which would indicate that Djukanovic or the colossus with feet of clay finally staggered, and the opposition gains a real chance to overthrow the Prime Minister and his cabinet. In this case, Micunovic who kept aloof for a long time will be in the forefront of those to storm parliament and other state agencies in Podgorica", - Bondarev said.

The Church against Djukanovic

Bishop (Metropolitan) Amfilohije of Montenegro and Primorje has been actively supporting the protesters, but never called for a dismissal of Djukanovic. " Djukanovic has complicated relationship with Amfilohije, he would like to appoint his own patriarch and to seize all the property of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. However he took no concrete steps in that direction, - notices Bondarev. - If Djukanovic gets active fighting against Amfilohije, it could trigger a new round of mass protests among Orthodox believers and to bring the protest activity to a new level, but this kind of scenario cannot be strongly discouraged".

Hereby, the most favorable result of the confrontation between Montenegrin opposition and Prime Minister would be a peaceful settlement of the situation and the following resignation of the Cabinet. The government must heed the people request and compromise to avoid needless casualties and keep country from falling into greater chaos.

What the New York Times Did Not Tell You About NATO and Montenegro

22.01.2016 10:00

On December 2, 2015, the foreign ministers of NATO member states, including the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, meeting at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, agreed to grant a membership invitation to Montenegro.

In response to this indisputable historical fact, the New York Times published two articles, a front page article and an editorial, which, due to their selective and biased treatment of the issue at hand, make it impossible for the readers to gain an objective understanding of the complexity of the situation on the ground. Both articles are consistent with the goals of an expansionist U.S. foreign policy and show little desire to engage with the expansionism’s destabilizing consequences not only in Montenegro and the Balkans, but also in Europe and beyond.

The NYT Front Page Article

The front page article, signed by Steven Erlanger, is entitled “NATO Unveils Plans to Grow, Drawing Fury and Threats from Russia.” As is evident, Montenegro is not even mentioned in the title, and this is the treatment of Montenegro and its citizens that Erlanger demonstrates throughout the article. Apparently, for Erlanger, looking down from on high, it does not really matter what the citizens of a sovereign state think about their country’s future. He is more than willing to erase Montenegrin individual and collective subjectivities and present Montenegro as a mere pawn in the Great Powers’ geopolitical chess game. According to him, all that matters is that NATO is on track in implementing “its plans” and that Russia reacted not only negatively, but “in fury.”

The old Orientalist cliché, so well described by the Palestinian-American critical theorist Edward Said, is being repeated here. While the West is presented as cool and rational (making its plans into reality), the East is emotional and unpredictable (reacting with threats and fury). According to Erlanger’s elitist account, here once again we have the case of the “mature” and powerful West scoring against the “immature” and powerless East.

The fact that the ultimate decision about joining NATO will not be made by NATO foreign ministers but by the people of Montenegro themselves is not only disregarded by Erlanger, but it is intentionally presented in the way that falsifies the reality on the ground. Namely, in the only reference to the Montenegrin internal politics in the entire article – and it is no more than a half-sentence -, Erlanger writes that Montenegro is “eager to join.” This is very far from being true.

The majority of people in Montenegro actually prefer the option of military neutrality. However, the government of Montenegro, in order to preserve its undemocratic grip on power, has undertaken an immense and well-financed propaganda effort to convince the NATO decision-makers that the anti-NATO sentiment is losing ground. The Prime Minister Milo Djukanović, a corrupt opportunist well-connected to the shadowy networks of organized crime and intelligence services, in power since the Fall of the Berlin Wall, even called those who are against NATO membership “the enemies of the state.” However, the objective assessment of Djukanović’s tenure can easily show that it is him who is the authentic destroyer of the Montenegrin state, considering that no state institution in Montenegro today is free from the control of his inner circle of family and friends.

Moreover, it is clear that Djukanović is ready to do anything it takes to stay in power. In late October 2015, the special police forces instructed by Djukanović brutally suppressed civic anti-government demonstrations. Anybody found on the street was tear-gassed and beaten without mercy.

None of this is mentioned by Erlanger. It simply does not square well with his account in which NATO figures as the champion of democracy, rule of law, and human rights, protecting the world against evil dictatorships.

The NYT Editorial

The editorial article does not score much better on the scale of fairness and objectivity than Erlanger’s geopolitical propaganda piece. It is entitled “Russia’s Fury Over Montenegro and NATO.” Again, we have the issue of the Russian “fury” and NATO’s “coolness.” We have Vladimir Putin being made the centerpiece of the article, instead of the focus being directed to the people of Montenegro who are the only legitimate decision-makers on the subject of Montenegro’s NATO membership.

Just like in Erlanger’s article, there is only a brief mention of the internal political realities in Montenegro. It is tucked to the end of the article like an after-thought. It refers to the issue of the “sharply divided sentiments among Montenegrins” concerning NATO membership. While this comes closer to the reality on the ground than Erlanger’s “eagerness to join,” it is still misleading. Namely, the sentiments are not “sharply divided,” because there is a clear majority of those who are against membership. The Djukanović’s government is well-aware of this fact and that is why it is trying to find ways to block the initiative for holding the referendum on the subject.

Instead of promoting the right of ordinary people to have a say on matters that will significantly affect their lives, as one would expect from any liberal newspaper, the New York Times throws its weight behind those whose global code of conduct is nothing else but the expression of the war-mongering slogan “might makes right.”

Press release on Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov’s meetings in Montenegro

20.01.2016 13:20

On January 18-19, 2016, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov visited Podgorica to conduct political consultations on the bilateral, regional and European agendas with State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Montenegro Igor Jovovic and Director General of the Directorate for Bilateral Relations Ljiljana Toskovic.

Mr Meshkov was also received by President of Montenegro Filip Vujanović and spoke with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Igor Luksic.

At these meetings, Mr Meshkov told his Montenegrin partners about Russia’s principled stance against NATO’s further expansion and artificial drawing of Montenegro into the alliance in a difficult period in Russia-NATO relations.

During the discussion of bilateral issues, it was stated that Podgorica joining EU sanctions against Russia resulted in a 40 per cent reduction of bilateral foreign trade.

The Montenegrin side expressed interest in redressing the current situation, as it directly contradicts the interests of Russia’s and Montenegro’s peoples and undermines their traditional friendship.

The sides exchanged opinions on the events in southeastern Europe and a number of other European and global issues.

During his visit to Podgorica, Mr Meshkov met with the leaders of Montenegro’s major opposition parties. They informed him about their efforts to conduct a nation-wide referendum on the country’s NATO membership. Montenegrin politicians emphasised the importance of consolidating ties with Russia in all spheres, including inter-parliamentary and inter-party cooperation.

Out of NATO? Thousands call for membership referendum in Montenegro, opposition says

17.01.2016 10:00

An anti-NATO petition calling for a referendum on the country’s accession to the alliance has gathered “tens of thousands of signatures,” claim opposition leaders. The number obtained may already be enough to make the government conduct the ballot.

After the government in Podgorica willingly accepted NATO’s formal invitation to join the military bloc issued on December 2, the opposition, which had been staging street protests against the move, turned their attention to legal action.

There could be four different ways to trigger a national referendum under Montenegrin legislation. It could be organized at the request of the president, the government, an initiative from 25 lawmakers or via a petition from 10 percent of the registered voters, which is 52,806 citizens of Montenegro as of now.

The petition urging the government of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic to hold a referendum on NATO accession was launched on December 29 by the Socialist People’s Party (SPP).

A source told RIA Novosti that the number of signatures collected has already reached 55,000 as of January 16, but the SPP is set to continue the campaign.

“We have collected tens of thousands of signatures in 27 SPP offices across Montenegro. Due to the huge interest of the citizens, we will continue efforts to collect signatures calling for a referendum on Montenegro’s NATO membership,” SPP leader Srdan Milic told RIA Novosti.

Milic believes that the petition will collect many more signatures than are needed legally, but refused to make the exact figures public citing agreement with the Democratic Front, an opposition movement that has pledged full support to the initiative.

The decision of the Montenegro cabinet sparked protests in the capital, Podgorica, in early December, when the Democratic Front organized some 5,000 of its supporters to take to the streets to protest against NATO membership. Among other issues, the demonstrators were demanding PM Milo Djukanovic’s resignation.

Milic told RIA Novosti that in case the government ignores the petition and denies the citizens their constitutional right to a referendum, the political situation in Montenegro could be destabilized even further. NATO is still to formally accept the country into its ranks.

The latest opinion poll conducted by the local Damar agency showed that 47 percent of Montenegrins are in favor of the NATO bid, AP reports. A furtherme 39 percent are against it, while 14 percent are undecided.

Montenegro: Tens Of Thousands Sign Petition On NATO Accession Referendum

17.01.2016 10:00

BELGRADE – Tens of thousands of Montenegrin residents signed a petition urging the government to hold a national referendum on the country’s NATO membership, Srdan Milic, the leader of the Socialist People’s Party (SPP), said Saturday.

Under Montenegrin law, a national referendum may be held at the president or government’s initiative, a demand from 25 lawmakers of the Montenegrin parliament, as well as a request filed by 10 percent of registered voters, or 52,806 Montenegrin citizens.

“We collected tens of thousands of signatures in 27 SPP offices across Montenegro. Due to the huge interest of the citizens, we will continue efforts to collect signatures calling for a referendum on Montenegro’s NATO membership,” Milic told RIA Novosti.

NATO issued a formal invitation to join the military bloc to Montenegro on December 2, which Podgorica accepted the following day.

The decision triggered protests in the capital, with some 5,000 opponents taking to the streets. The protesters have called for Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic’s resignation.

Tens of Thousands Sign Petition in Montenegro on NATO Accession Referendum

16.01.2016 10:00

BELGRADE (Sputnik) — Under Montenegrin law, a national referendum may be held at the president or government’s initiative, a demand from 25 lawmakers of the Montenegrin parliament, as well as a request filed by 10 percent of registered voters, or 52,806 Montenegrin citizens.

"We collected tens of thousands of signatures in 27 SPP offices across Montenegro. Due to the huge interest of the citizens, we will continue efforts to collect signatures calling for a referendum on Montenegro’s NATO membership," Milic told RIA Novosti.

NATO issued a formal invitation to join the military bloc to Montenegro on December 2, which Podgorica accepted the following day.

The decision triggered protests in the capital, with some 5,000 opponents taking to the streets. The protesters have called for Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's resignation.

On board with Montenegro’s tumultuous “West Side Story”

16.01.2016 10:00

On December 2nd, 2015, Montenegro officially received its invitation to join NATO as the 29th member. Stirring anger not only in Russia but also in the country itself, the NATO question reveals the problems faced by the young Balkan state.

Trying to avoid an escalation of violence as it occurred in Ukraine, US ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute tried to play down such invitation: ‘This is not designed as a message to Russia. It is not about Russia’ but this was in vain, as demonstration broke out in Montenegro itself.

On December 14th, several thousand people took to the streets in Podgorica to denounce the invitation. Violent demonstrations had already taken place in the Montenegrin capital against the government but also against NATO integration the previous October.

Taking a walk on “the West side” is however nothing new for Montenegro, as this invitation is the crowning of its mid-term policy. Montenegrin officials have been trying to enhance their national identity and sovereignty especially vis-à-vis its Serbian bigger brother.

Key elements such as language (the official language is Montenegrin and not Serbian), the alphabet (Montenegrin mostly uses Latin instead of Cyrillic) and religion (Montenegro has its own church) show a commitment to an independent Montenegrin national identity.

With 22 out of 35 chapters of negotiations open, the country is farther ahead in its European integration process than Serbia. Unlike Serbia, Montenegro also backed EU economic sanctions against Russia. Thus, the Montenegrin desire to join NATO can be seen as a diplomatic tool to increase national consciousness. While Serbia does not wish to join the alliance yet, Montenegro is turning its back on Serbia and Russia, therefore affirming its sovereignty.

Yet behind this top-down process orchestrated by Montenegrin officials lie issues that explain the current controversy in Montenegrin society.

  • Firstly, Russia is a heavy-weight investor in Montenegro. Russia counts for nearly a third of foreign direct investment (1.1 billion in 2013) while western European countries account for less than 5 % on an individual basis [1]. In a country where tourism stands for more than 20 % of GDP [2], 30 % of nights in hotels are booked by Russian tourists [3].
  • Secondly, the burden of history still prevails. Russia has been an ally for several centuries and supported Montenegro (at that time Former Yugoslavia) during the 1999 NATO air strike. For a country in which 30 % of its citizens declare themselves as “Serbs”, the country’s turning away from Russia is especially hard to swallow.

Likewise, a recent poll showed a totally divided public opinion on the question with 36.3 % in favour, 37.3 % against and 26.1% unsure [4]. The government is however unwilling to hold a referendum to bring an end to this quarrel and is determined to maintain is top-down approach

Having been in power for 25 years, the Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Đukanović has set up a political-mafia system [5] that stirs anger in all parts of society. Confusion between NATO integration and rejection of Đukanović’s system is likely to occur in case of a referendum, and this explains the reluctance of the Prime Minister to play all in on such a crucial question.

This is therefore where the Montenegrin “West Side story” stands, Behind NATO integration lies Đukanović’s system. On one hand, to force NATO integration would be to exacerbate the divisions in a society that could react violently. On the other hand, to hold such a referendum would put the current political system in Montenegro at risk. More than a journey to the West, the NATO question reveals all the divisions of the young Balkan state, making its near future very unpredictable.


10.01.2016 10:00

A “NATO Victims Square” has appeared in one place in Montenegro. In Murino village, where on April 30, 1999, several children were killed during the bombardment by the NATO forces, a citizens’ action group has installed a plaque reading, “NATO Victims Square”.

The Democratic People’s Party along with a group of Murino residents resolved to immortalize the memory of the victims of this barbaric airstrike.

“This is all we (who then survived) can do… In fact, today we are showing that we did not allow them to crush us and erase our memory, and that nobody has a right to impose their solutions on us,” said Milun Zogovic, one of the action’s initiators.

Leader of the Democratic People’s Party Milan Knezevic has noted that each of us has the duty to keep alive the memory of the NATO bombardment victims.

“We have installed a plaque here as a sign of our resistance to oblivion, resistance to any attempts of ideological and national reformation of Murino residents and Montenegrin citizens,” he stressed.

Nikolic: Montenegro Has Become A Toy State

25.12.2015 10:00

BELGRADE – Serbian President, Tomislav Nikolic said that Montenegro cannot be compared to Serbia. Calling Montenegro a toy state, Nikolic said that unlike Montenegro, Serbia constantly shows it is not anything like Montenegro and that no one can play with it, Gazeta Express reported.

“Serbia has its own interests and rights, centuries-old partnership with Russia and they cannot tell us that we are an enemy to EU and EU cannot tell us we are an enemy to Russia”, said Nikolic.

Nikolic said that Montenegro chose NATO and EU membership, but also conflicts that these organizations have, without an identity or independence. According to him, Montenegro deliberately abrogated its independence in decision-making by accepting anything just to join NATO, hence becoming a toy state.

“Montenegro is an example of how the state should not become a toy and its leaders should not treat them as such,” said Nikolic.

Montenegrins Must Decide Their Fate on Their Own

24.12.2015 00:19

People of Montenegro will remember the spring of 1999 for a long time. Waking up every day to the roar of sirens, heralding the approach of NATO aircraft, Montenegrins could not understand why they were being bombed, why innocents were killed? And today, just 16 years later, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg invited Podgorica to join the military alliance that recently applied airstrikes at Yugoslavian soil.

"NATO took a historic decision to start negotiations on Montenegro's accession," - he said at the alliance foreign ministers summit on December 2.

The question arises why Montenegrins suddenly decided to join the alliance that just recently destroyed their country? Have the citizens of this Balkan state forgiven NATOs past crimes?

The answer is simple - no one really asked them. Decision on Euro-Atlantic integration was adopted by the country's Parliament. 50 out of 81 MP voted "yes". Only 50 people have determined the fate of the country for many decades to come! At the same time a referendum was not a question both at the time of voting, and now.

However on 13 December Montenegrins made it clear that they must decide for themselves with whom to be: NATO or Russia.

In response, PM Milo Djukanovic said: "There is no legal obligation, nor a political need to hold a referendum on Montenegro's accession to NATO."

The categorical position of the permanent leader of the republic is quite understandable: he knows that accession to NATO cannot receive any popular support. Both the Montenegrin PM and NATO are well aware of this. No wonder Brussels demands Podgorica to achieve greater popular support for the integration processes.

The idea of being drawn into a military alliance makes Milo Djukanovic even more unpopular among the population of Montenegro. Under his unchallenged leadership the country has been degrading for 25 years. Industry, agriculture, social sector, armed forces - all in decline. Not to mention the highest level of corruption in higher echelons of power and close ties with the top Balkan criminals.

Will NATO resolve the economic crisis in Montenegro, will it invest in agriculture, and will it build new plants and create jobs?

The answer, in my opinion, is obvious.

Euro-Atlantic integration will complicate relations with Russia. Today, due to very obvious reasons, Russians have an extremely negative attitude toward the alliance led by Washington. And, in case of accession, Montenegro as a tourist destination will be by far less attractive for our citizens. For the same reason Russian investment in the Montenegrin real estate will be reduced. And that's just the beginning.

From the moment Montenegro authorities have received the invitation to NATO they tend to show Euro-Atlantic solidarity, either by receiving direct instructions from Brussels, or by stepping up anti-Russian sanctions.

Does Milo Djukanovic expect to maintain "friendly relations" with Moscow?

This question has already been answered by deputy chairman of Russian State Duma Sergei Zheleznyak: "The introduction of additional sanctions against Russian citizens by Montenegrin authorities would lead to forced response steps that will not help reducing social and political tensions in Montenegro."

In other words, Montenegrin authorities' actions are currently illogical and lead to further decline in living standards of the country. And this does not need any "hand of Moscow". Milo Djukanovic forces people to get to the streets and demand the resignation of the government again and again, demanding a referendum, demanding justice.

At first "Balkan dictator" decided to "strangle" the protest movement by tear gas and batons. But his "Western colleagues" didn't appreciate this. Bloodied faces of protesters looked painfully undemocratic on leading TV channels. Now the police are committed to stay out of the protesters' actions and the country's leadership relies on the information blockade and controlled media "propaganda veil."

But the voice of reason from the West is heard ever more often. NATO countries already blush because of one of their "unstable" members - Turkey that jeopardized all the progress between Brussels and Moscow. And many fear that Montenegro's Euro-Atlantic integration will be yet another obstacle on the way toward the consolidation of efforts to combat global terrorism.

Thus, according to the co-chairman of the Leftist faction of the German Bundestag, Sarah Wagenknecht, Montenegro is essentially divided into two camps - one wants reapprochement with NATO, another - with Russia. "In such stressful conditions anyone who's eager to join NATO, warms up internal conflict - the politician believes. - Alliance thus consciously creates new tensions in relations with Russia. Moscow has made it pretty clear that any expansion of the alliance will be perceived as a hostile act."

In conclusion, we call on our Western colleagues to look at the situation past the picture drawn by Milo Djukanovic, and answer one question: is it worth it to create a powder keg in Europe with your own hands? Or should they concentrate on more pressing issues, such as the joint fight against terrorism?

Montenegrin Protesters Plan to Hold Meetings More Often

23.12.2015 20:20

In Montenegrin Podgorica, protest rally that started in the central square has just ended at the building of the National Television. Slogans call for more intensive and bigger similar events in the future.

According to opposition leaders, popular protest and regime change are the only alternative for the democratic future of Montenegro. They also called upon opposition members, that have not yet participated in the protests to join the demonstrations.

The protesters believe that only transitional government can resolve political crisis in the country and organize democratic and transparent elections in Montenegro.

For over two months Montenegro has been suffering a series of mass protests. Citizens demand resignation of the country's prime-minister M.Djukanovic and his administration and the forming of a transitional government which should conduct fair and transparent elections. The protesters also oppose joining NATO.

Protesters in Montenegro Demand Regime Change

23.12.2015 20:19

Popular unrest continues in Podgorica. Protesters chant anti-government slogans, demanding regime change and the holding of democratic and transparent elections.

In addition, they accused "regime opposition" (opposition members that don't participate in the rally) of being under the control the current regime of Montenegro, led by PM Milo Djukanovic.

For over two months Montenegro has been suffering a series of mass protests. Citizens demand resignation of the country's prime-minister M.Djukanovic and his administration and the forming of a transitional government which should conduct fair and transparent elections. The protesters also oppose joining NATO.

Triumph of Lawlessness and Crime in Montenegro

23.12.2015 20:18

NATO's invitation for Montenegro to join the alliance would've been impossible without significant progress in the field of rule of law and efforts to overcome corruption and organized crime in the country. This was stated by Minister of Justice Zoran Pazin during the report on his department's work in 2015.

However, current situation in economic and social spheres raise questions of Montenegrin leadership success. In particular, PM Djukanovic keeps talking about economy growth, raising wages and investment. He uses these "fairytales" to prove his Western partners that Podgorica fits EU and NATO standards.

In fact, half the population lives below the poverty line, unemployment and corruption thrive. The gap between rich and poor only increases, causing public discontent with the policies of the ruling elite. At the same time, Djukanovic is on the list of the richest politicians in Europe.

However, PM's other "tracklist" includes human organs trafficking in 1999, cigarette smuggling, financial fraud and criminal offenses. All attempts to bring Djukanovic to justice for his "business" failed miserably: thanks to the US and other Western countries, he had not only gone unpunished, but continues to "strengthen" the image of Montenegro.

Therefore, the anger and resentment of Montenegrins are justified. People dream of government change, social justice and welfare, not about surviving in a country that is mired in corruption and dubious benefits of its membership in NATO and EU.

The "Democratic Front" opposition coalition is holding another rally agains the current government of Montenegro on December 23. Activists and citizens demand government's resignation and review of the decision to join NATO.

Demonstrators in Podgorica Urged Authorities to Converge with Russia

23.12.2015 20:18

In the central square of the Montenegrin capital an anti-government rally organized by the opposition coalition "Democratic front" has just started.

Protesters are extremely dissatisfied with the current regime in Montenegro and oppositions' negotiations with the Parliament that occured on Monday. They demand creation of transitional government and holding of democratic and transparent elections.

The protesters are holding the flags of Montenegro, Serbia and Russia, chanting anti-government slogans, calling PM Djukanovic a dictator and a thief and his government - criminal and corrupt.

In addition, demonstrators accuse authorities of distancing from Russia. According to opposition leaders, active struggle with Djukanovic's regime is the only way to meet people's requirements.

For over two months Montenegro has been suffering a series of mass protests. Citizens demand resignation of the country's prime-minister M.Djukanovic and his administration and the forming of a transitional government which should conduct fair and transparent elections.

Montenegrin Accession to NATO Will Aggravate the Situation in the Balkans

23.12.2015 18:00

Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro Igor Luksic received an official invitation to the alliance from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday. After the talks, which are expected to last for several months, the member-states are expected to sign the protocol of accession of Montenegro into the alliance. After that the process of ratification will start.

Such NATO's confrontational step was sharply criticized by Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry said "it's fraught with additional destabilizing consequences for Euro-Atlantic security system."

The opposition coalition "Democratic Front" plans to hold more protests against the Government of Montenegro headed by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic on December 23. "We believe that there is no more time to wait. The rest of the opposition should support us in establishing transitional government to avoid new "terrible decisions" by Milo Djukanovic," – said the official representative of "Democratic Front" Nebojsa Medojevic.

Protests in Montenegro continue for more than three months. Citizens demand social reforms and the government's resignation, vote against country's accession to NATO and call for a popular referendum and oppose the rupture of ties with Russia.

Montenegrin journalist, coordinator of the "No to War – No to NATO" movement Igor Damjanovic believes that intensity and extent of popular protest will only grow. "Our people want referendum, and it is precisely what NATO is afraid of. Dissatisfaction with Djukanovic's criminal regime as well as the propaganda carried out by the alliance will cause a new wave of popular indignation" – the reporter told "Inforos" news agency.

Damjanovic also stressed that Montenegrin prime minister, "never had people's support." "His regime is tyranny. He doesn't think about the future of his country and his people, has no real strategy for further development of the state. Djukanovic sees entry into NATO as personal benefit. For him this is an opportunity to save life and criminal policy after receiving certain guarantees from Western European countries ", - says the journalist.

At the same time, according to Damjanovic, the United States see the accession of Montenegro to the alliance as "a kind of compensation for the failure of its policies in Syria and Ukraine." "Moreover, the country's accession to the alliance will inevitably lead to deterioration of friendly relations with Russia. NATO and Montenegrin corrupted government attempts to involve the country into the alliance will only pour oil on the "Balkan pot" – believes Igor Damjanovic.

Montenegrins Oppose NATO

23.12.2015 17:33

Since September Montenegro has seen anti-government demonstrations, demanding regime change and country's democratization. Another Montenegrin opposition protest action, accompanied by slogans about disbanding the government, will be held in Podgorica on December 23.

The main culprit of the crisis and popular uprisings of the opposition forces is believed to be PM Milo Djukanovic. He is accused of usurpation of power, corruption and regular election fraud. In addition, the protesters are outraged by his plans to drag the country into NATO.

In hopes to benefit the Montenegrin leadership seeks an alliance without asking people. In fact, entry into the block does not give a country anything, except for a set of obligations. Despite the poor economic situation, Podgorica have always followed NATO instructions and tries to match its high demands: paying a membership fee to send troops to hotspots and to rearming the national armed forces at own expense. A confrontation with Russia is likely to become a no less important condition for the entry.

The desire to draw Montenegro into the allianceas as quickly as possible demonstrates NATO intentions to disconnect Slavic space, which Russia has always patronized and distance Podgorica from Moscow. Especially at a time when Russian foreign policy achieves great success.

Wanting to "insult and humiliate" Russia, NATO members have found allies in the Montenegrin puppet regime headed by Djukanovic. Because of the serious criminal acts documented by Western countries' security services, the authorities are forced to blindly follow US instructions.

However, the protests are very timely: final decision on Montenegro's accession to NATO will be made no earlier than the beginning of summer 2016. Coordination and reform required by the alliance will take about two years. The opposition has time to force the government to listen to Montenegrin vox populi.

Therefore, despite the Governments desire to join NATO, the opposition parties announced that they will go for a referendum, and insist that the authorities must take people's opinion into account. Any decisions Montenegro's accession to the alliance, must be taken in accordance with democratic principles.

Political Crisis in Montenegro is on Hand

23.12.2015 15:46

Montenegro has received a letter by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg formally inviting the country to begin the process of accession to NATO.

"According to the procedure, receiving of the invitation letter will be followed by the opening of accession negotiations which will last several months. Following their completion, alliance member states are expected to sign a protocol on Montenegro's accession and begin the ratification process. Completion of the protocol will enable Montenegro to take part in most NATO meetings" - says the official government website.

Country's accession to NATO as the 29th member appears inevitable in the nearest future. However, most of Montenegrin citizens oppose this process. Therefore, mass rallies have been continuing in the country for several months. Today the protesters are holding yet another one. Representatives of the Montenegrin opposition coalition "Democratic Front" declare their dissatisfaction with corruption and totalitarian regime, some protesters are angered by the government's plans to join NATO. Protesters believe that this issue has to be put to a referendum.

Montenegro's accession issue has created a deep rift in society. It would be a truly democratic decision if the authorities held a referendum. According to opinion polls results, in this case the government will fail to gain the majority of votes. Thus it's impossible to speak of "vox populi". The political elite supports joining the alliance because they believe it will create a good investment climate.

According to Milo Djukanovic, "experience of all member countries shows a sharp inflow of investments after joining NATO." "It is a crucial factor for our economy. We are a tourist country so stability is of particular importance for us", - says Djukanovic.

In addition, a lot of experts believe that Djukanovic wants to join NATO because it will further legitimize his regime. He is afraid of losing control of the country where the same party and the same people were in power for over 25 years.

Next parliamentary elections in the country are to be held soon. Therefore, joining NATO could seriously affect voting results and PM Djukanovic's fate. According to him, "if the opposition parties win the elections, the decision on accession to NATO will not pass through Parliament."

The political situation in the country is rapidly heating up, because people are against joining the alliance and demand resignation from PM Djukanovic and government and vote for holding early elections.

Djukanovic Drags Montenegro into NATO Without Referendum

23.12.2015 14:40

The authorities' nervousness is explainable. The plans of Montenegrin "evergreen" ruler Milo Djukanovic (26 years in power) to make his country a member of NATO are becoming clear. Prime Minister does not intend to hold a referendum on this issue, a decision of the parliament or an administrative decision of the executive power are expected – especially if parties supporting the country's NATO membership win the upcoming elections. Djukanovic commented on these possibilities in an interview with the Russian "Kommersant" newspaper.

PM Djukanovic and his little "power structure" in a 600,000 men country are preparing for a new wave of protests on this issue. Protests are sure to happen – civil from internal opposition and political from Russia. Moscow suggests that Djukanovic regime should use a clearly democratic way to solve the problem – to hold a referendum on the accession of Montenegro into NATO, which quite recently (in 1999) bombed this small Balkan country, including the country's capital – Podgorica.

So far, Podgorica's response to Moscow's exhortations was confrontational: no referendum. "The way Montenegro will confirm its membership in NATO will be determined by Montenegrin Assembly. No third countries have a right to give advice on how our public institutions should solve internal issues," – the Minister of External Relations and European Integration Igor Luksic said in a statement.

At the same time, Djukanovic personally accused Russia and some "Serbian nationalists" of organizing protests in Podgorica in early October. (on October 24 a protest camp in front of the Assembly was cracked down on by the police, and after that tens of thousands of people took part in the recent anti-NATO demonstration on December 12). Moreover, Djukanovic has introduced some other sanctions against Russia in addition to the overall EU list against Crimea and Donbas, prohibiting Montenegrins to buy property in these regions and economically cooperate with them. He did it despite the fact that Moscow did not prevent Russians to enrich the Montenegrin economy with their investments for many years.

Montenegrin authorities are preparing public opinion to "wake up in NATO." Djukanovic finds precedents: saying that Poland and the Czech Republic joined NATO without referendum in 1999, and Spain organized the referendum post-factum in 1986 after entering NATO (the people were offered to vote for or against state's NATO membership). All these arguments are unconvincing. When Poland and the Czech Republic were knocking on NATO's door in the 1990s, they couldn't even imagine that within a few weeks they will have to bomb their neighbor country – Yugoslavia. In 1999 that is exactly what happened – Poland and Czech Republic were forced to participate in the NATO's aggression against Yugoslavia. But today many Czechs still remember that Tito's Yugoslavia morally supported them during Warsaw Pact forces' invasion in 1968. As for Spain, the idea of joining NATO was a deception: people were instilled that leaving the alliance would become a dangerous precedent and their country would disgrace itself in front of the whole world. But even under these conditions more than 43 percent of Spaniards voted for leaving the alliance in 1986.

The EU and the West are helping Djukanovic to form public opinion. The idea of joining NATO serves as a prerequisite for accession to the EU, and the "European integration" planned on 2020 is characterized as the only salvation for the small country, separated from Serbia in 2006. The example of Greece, situated not far from Montenegro, demonstrates that EU membership is not an insurance against poverty and lawlessness.

Some people are against creating a new point of Russia-EU confrontation. A representative of the Bundestag Leftist Party Sahra Wagenknecht said bluntly that Montenegro's entry into NATO deepens unnecessary confrontation between EU and Russia. Here's how TASS correspondent in Berlin quoted Wagenknecht: "Montenegro is essentially divided into two camps – one wants a rapprochement with NATO and others with Russia." "Anyone who welcomes the idea of NATO membership in such stressful conditions warms up internal conflict", – the politician believes. "This is the way alliance creates new tensions in relations with Russia. Moscow made it clear that NATO's intentions to expand will be interpreted as hostile actions."

Unfortunately, EU and US mass media call for overcoming Moscow's resistance. American "Foreign Affairs" advises US to show that Russia can't "veto" alliance's decisions. Thus the conflict over Montenegro seems to deepen.

"Democratic Front" Prepares New Anti-NATO Rally

23.12.2015 11:06

On Tuesday, December 22, Montenegrin Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Igor Luksic on Tuesday received an official invitation letter from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to join the alliance. It is expected alliance member-countries will be holding talks for a few months, and then will sign a protocol on this Balkan country's accession into the alliance and the process of ratification will begin.

In this connection, today, on December 23, 18 p.m. local time the "Democratic Front" opposition coalition plans to hold another protest rally against the current leadership of the country. Activists and citizens demand a revision of decisions on the country's accession to NATO, referring in particular to the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, responsible "for making this important political decision in the life of the country."

"We believe that there is no more time to wait. The rest of the opposition should support us in establishing the transitional government to avoid new "terrible decisions" by Milo Djukanovic" - said the official representative of "Democratic Front" Nebojsa Medojevic.

In Montenegro, mass protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, the formation of a transitional government, which is to hold fair and transparent elections have been going on for a few months. The protesters also oppose joining NATO.

The situation in Montenegro

16.12.2015 16:18

The internal political crisis in that country goes hand in hand with lengthy protests, which is indicative of the continued deep split in Montenegrin society, primarily, over the issue of NATO membership.

This thesis was recently confirmed by Prime Minister of Montenegro Milo Dukanovic in his interview with the Russian Kommersant newspaper where he said that as of November 220,000 Montenegrins want their country to join NATO. However, he overlooked the fact that the total number of registered voters in the country is 541,000. Even if you go along with what Mr Dukanovic said, Montenegro's Euro-Atlantic integration is backed by less than half of its registered voters.

We believe that the people of Montenegro must weigh in and say what they want in a national referendum on that issue. It would be a manifestation of the democracy that we have heard so much about.

Why is Russia opposed to Montenegro joining NATO?

15.12.2015 10:00

Russian politicians and analysts reacted quite strongly to the news on Dec. 2 that NATO's North Atlantic Council has begun negotiations with Montenegro on its accession to the military alliance.

Russia has held a consistent position on the expansion of NATO to include Montenegro for a number of years. Commenting on the issue back in 2011, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that NATO membership would not add to the security of either the region or the alliance as a whole, and in 2014 described the possible accession of Montenegro to NATO as "irresponsible and provocative."

In mid-November, Russia’s State Duma issued an appeal to the Montenegrin parliament, as well as the governments of NATO and the OSCE member countries. The text pointed out that "the bloc approach to guaranteeing security," "involving states, especially against the will of their people, in military alliances, are political tools from the Cold War era."

In the statement, the Russian parliament said that "the desire of the regime of Milo Djukanovic, who has been running Montenegro for 25 years, to join NATO contradicts the will of the overwhelming majority of the people of this country,” adding that building close ties with NATO "strikes at the traditionally friendly Russian-Montenegrin relations.”

The Russian factor

Indeed, Montenegro has been conducting an aggressive campaign to join NATO in the last two years, with the emphasis being placed precisely on a confrontation with Russia.

According to opinion polls released by Prime Minister Djukanovic of Montenegro in June 2015, 47 percent of Montenegrins would vote for accession to NATO and 43 percent against, with about 65 percent of respondents convinced that the state will become a member of the alliance in the near future.

However, according to research carried out by the Damar sociology agency in June 2015, 41.6 percent of Montenegrins would vote for joining NATO, while 39.7 percent are against it, and over 15 percent undecided.

Meanwhile, the Montenegrin opposition has accused the authorities of manipulation and refers to an internal government document in which 57 percent of citizens are opposed to joining NATO vs. 35 percent in support, with 84 percent of people in favor of a referendum on the issue.

“How could it be that for a half year the number of NATO opponents has declined by an unbelievable 17.3 percent? What could have such a strong influence on citizens’ minds?” read the official communique of the opposition Movement for Neutrality [Pokret za neutralnost] of Montenegro.

At the same time, the Montenegrin authorities have accused Russia of fomenting mass anti-NATO demonstrations in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica in recent months, accusations that Russia denies.

As Alexei Pushkov, the chairman of the Duma’s international committee, stated in an exclusive interview with RBTH, "Djukanovic cannot force his citizens to love NATO, and dumps the blame for this on Russia."

Distrust in the Montenegrin government's reports in the country itself and beyond is supported by numerous corruption scandals, for which Djukanovic has become notorious.

His name has constantly popped up in the media in relation to contraband flows in the Mediterranean region and trafficking the organs of Kosovo Serbs, while fresh accusations include a claim by Russian senator Frants Klintsevich that Djukanovic's regime is trading arms with the Islamic State (ISIS) radical jihadist organization.

Longtime friends

Despite the fact that many countries of the former Warsaw Pact and even the three former Soviet republics have joined NATO since the fall of the USSR, the potential accession of Montenegro has caused a particularly emotional reaction from the Russian side.

This is due to the fact that Russia and Montenegro are united by 300 years of close cooperation, with Russia contributing to the establishment and development of Montenegrin statehood in the 19th century and being among the first to recognize the country’s independence from Serbia in 2006, with investment from Russian business serving as a strong driver for Montenegro’s economic development since then.

Viktor Kolbanovsky, director of the Russian Balkan Center for International Cooperation, told RBTH that Russia's special attitude to the issue is due to the fact that the "brotherly" Montenegro somewhat "politically betrayed" Russia by joining the EU's sanctions against Moscow in 2014, and by having now taken one more step toward the final breakup of traditional relations with Russia.

How will Russia respond?

Speaking on Dec. 2, just as the news broke, the president's press secretary Dmitry Peskov warned that Russia would respond if Montenegro were to join the alliance.

"On various levels, Moscow has always noted that the continued eastward expansion of NATO and NATO's military infrastructure cannot but result in retaliatory actions from the east, i.e. from the Russian side, in terms of ensuring security and supporting the parity of interests,” said Peskov.

State Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Zheleznyak was more specific, telling RBTH that "we have to appropriately limit our contacts in the economic and other spheres."

Nikita Bondarev, head of the Balkan sector of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, believes, however, that such measures may be counterproductive, since they primarily hurt ordinary Montenegrins and Russian expatriates and immigrants living in the country (5,000-10,000 Russians are believed to be permanently resident in Montenegro, with around 70,000 owning second homes there).

According to Bondarev, "Russia first of all can and should put all its diplomatic and political weight behind seeking a nationwide referendum on Montenegro's accession to NATO."

Zheleznyak also spoke about the need for a referendum on this issue. "We fully support those action teams that are trying to insist on holding the referendum," he said.

However, there is also a different opinion on the further development of events. Maxim Samorukov of the Carnegie Moscow Center believes that strategically the Balkans "have lost their attraction" for Russia due to the fact that large energy projects such as the South Stream gas pipeline have become irrelevant, so "serious practical actions by Russia in the Balkans" in response to Montenegro’s accession to NATO are "unlikely to follow."

Montenegro Invited to Join NATO: Dubious Payoff

09.12.2015 10:00

On December 2, NATO invited Montenegro to become the 29th member of the US-led military alliance. The Montenegro’s parliament in September passed a resolution by 50 votes out of 79 to support the country’s NATO membership. «Montenegro’s accession to NATO will be another important step in the Euro-Atlantic integration of the entire Western Balkans region», NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on the occasion. «And it makes clear that NATO keeps its doors open, to complete our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace», he added.

Montenegro’s accession talks are expected to take about a few months to complete. After that, the country must become the alliance’s 29th member state. The next NATO Summit is scheduled for July 8-9, 2016 in Warsaw, Poland. The last time NATO accepted new members was in 2009 when Croatia and Albania joined the bloc. Montenegro is already involved in NATO's efforts in Afghanistan and has actively cooperated with the alliance in other ways.

The country has also enacted several reforms to meet the alliance's requirements, though Stoltenberg said NATO still expects more progress «on defense adaptation, on domestic reform, especially rule of law, and to continue to make progress in demonstrating public support for Montenegro's NATO membership».

Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic is in favour of joining NATO. He has resisted calls for a referendum on the issue.

For over two months Montenegro has been suffering a series of mass protests. Citizens demand resignation of the country's prime-minister Djukanovic and his administration and the forming of a transitional government which should conduct fair and transparent elections. Also the protesters raise voices against joining NATO.

Enlarging NATO entails substantial risks that have been all but glossed over by proponents.

The Montenegro’s armed forces number only about 2,000 active duty personnel trained and equipped primarily for internal security operations. The military needs more young officers. The average age of an officer from Montenegro is 39 compared to 29 for most NATO countries. All in all, the Montenegro’s armed forces are a far cry from any standards. Bringing the military up to NATO standards requires significant investments, something which Podgorica cannot afford.

By incorporating Montenegro, NATO will consequently be extending its security umbrella over a country that will contribute almost nothing to the common defense—not to mention out-of-area operations.

It means that Montenegro is nothing but a burden for the Alliance's collective security with only four NATO states keeping military spending at 2% of GDP to carry out their obligations as it has been agreed to.

The poor state of military is not the only problem faced by the country. Corruption is particularly pervasive at the municipal level in the areas of land zoning, public procurement, privatisation, education and healthcare.

Nepotism and rampant corruption have bred high unemployment.

UN agencies ring alarm regarding overwhelming poverty and corruption in Montenegro.

With its never ending corruption scandals, Montenegro can bring damage to Alliance's image. NATO is already in trouble with Turkey, whose government is widely believed to be involved in aiding terrorists. The Muslim ghetto in Montenegro may become a source of terrorism on the territory of NATO states. The country’s government is planning to legalize the participants of radical Muslim organizations.

This is a wrong step at the time NATO and Russia face a common enemy in the Middle East. The Russia-NATO cooperation is indispensable to the eventual resolution of Syrian conflict, the implementation of Iranian deal and many other security issues hitting the global agenda. By further alienating Russia, NATO’s invitation to Montenegro will likely render such cooperation even more difficult.

The Montenegro’s inclusion would make the entire northern shore of the Mediterranean NATO territory, from Turkey to Spain. The very fact of NATO’s further expansion is viewed as a hostile act by Russia.

«On all different levels Moscow has always noted that the continuing expansion of NATO, the military infrastructure of NATO, to the east of course cannot but lead to reciprocal actions from the east, that is from the Russian side, in the interests of providing security and upporting the parity of our interests», Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization's invitation to Montenegro is drawing rebuke from a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman who called the U.S.-led group a «product of the Cold War.» Hua Chunying told reporters China is closely watching the negotiations between NATO and the Balkan state, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

Beijing is not welcoming the move from NATO, and on Thursday Hua suggested it could lead countries down a path of divisiveness. «We think NATO is a product of the Cold War», Hua said, adding China opposes NATO's expansion to include additional states. «In the global age we live in, the security of all countries is interconnected and mutually affect each one country, or group, can seek to rely only on the absolute security of its own strength».

The forthcoming NATO enlargement entails severe national-security risks with dubious payoff. As the NATO Summit approaches next summer, there is still a chance for the alliance policy makers to thoroughly weigh all pros and cons of this move. Is it the propitious moment for making NATO an extra burden and further spoil the relations with Moscow as the Middle East problems go on exacerbating and posing more threats?

Montenegro in NATO: Provocation at a critical moment in US-Russian relations

06.12.2015 14:57

The invitation for Montenegro's joining NATO, extended to the small Balkan nation by the NATO's foreign ministers' conference in Brussels, can hardly be called a triumph of democracy.

The citizens of Montenegro, most likely, won't be allowed to hold a referendum on joining the military alliance, which conducted a bombing raid on this country of some 622,000 people during NATO's strike against Yugoslavia in 1999.

The bid to join NATO, which Podhoritsa has been pursuing since its full secession from Serbia in 2006, was never subjected to the test of a popular vote. The decision to ask for membership was supported earlier this year by a simple majority vote in Montenegro's parliament, which has been for the past 25 years controlled by the country's current prime minister Milo Djukanovic via his Democratic party of Socialists - the local successor to Yugoslavia's Titoist communist party.

Djukanovic, Montenegro's evergreen ruler since 1991, dismissed the opposition's and Russia's objections to Montenegro's NATO membership. At a meeting with the representatives of non-government organizations, he described the invitation as "one more important step towards Montenegro's full membership in the European Union."

Meanwhile, even the opinion polls conducted by the traditionally NATO-friendly foreign-financed NGOs reveal a much more complicated picture than what the NATO officials routinely describe as “Montenegrins’ desire to be in NATO which is not to be hampered by Russia.”

For example, a poll conducted by the Podhoritsa-based Center for Democracy and Human Rights revealed that 37 percent of Montenegrins opposed NATO membership for their country while 36 percent supported it. The rest were undecided.

When the similar polls were conducted among different ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia, they revealed the still existing divisions resulting from the civil wars of the early 1990s, when a hasty recognition by Germany and other Western states of the independent status of Croatia, Bosnia and other new independent states led to a painful "divorce" among the constituent parts of the former Federal Socialist Yugoslav Republic. Among the Bosnian Muslims, supported by the West during the civil war of 1992-1995, support for NATO membership is at the level of 68 percent, while among ethnic Serbs it is just 11.3 percent.

It is quite obvious that Djukanovic is playing on Montenegrins' positive attitude to everything European. He uses the old propaganda ploy of putting his country's citizens before a false dilemma: you are either with NATO or with Russia. The same rhetoric was used by the former Polish president Alexander Kwasniewski in 2004 when he rammed through the decision for Poland to join the EU - not only through the Polish parliament, but also through Polish society at large.

On the day before the vote, Kwasniewski offered those Poles who opposed EU membership "to join the CIS instead" (CIS is a loose umbrella organization for the former constituent republics of the Soviet Union, which sprang up in 1992 on the ruins of the USSR). False dilemma tactics are often used in advertising when people are urged to buy a new product or "stay with something that is history." Even the usual rhetoric of NATO officials about Russia or other opponents "staying on the wrong side of history" reflects the same propagandistic ploy of a false dilemma.

In reality, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin many times reiterated that Russia is not opposed to European integration not only of Montenegro, but also of other East European nations, including the former constituent republics of the now defunct Soviet Union. Russia, however, is opposed to new dividing lines in Europe. Unfortunately, EU and NATO memberships for countries of Eastern Europe are usually offered as a part of a “package” that includes an anti-Russian orientation.

The statement by NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that Montenegro’s membership “is not directed against” Russia – this statement simply contradicts some facts on the ground. Though Montenegro is not yet an EU member, it joined the EU’s anti-Russia sanctions in 2014.

In his recent statements, Djukanovic accused Russia of supporting the recent protests against himself in Podhoritsa, which were violently dispersed by him in mid-October this year. There are also negative examples in Montenegro’s immediate surroundings.

In Poland and the Baltic countries, their incorporation into NATO in 1999-2004 did not lead to the promised “feeling of security” and an “improvement” of relations with Russia. Instead, NATO membership led to a steady growth of anti-Russian propaganda and anti-Russian actions emanating from these countries.

The Russian Duma adopted a special appeal to the parliament of Montenegro, where the Russian parliamentarians urged the Montenegrin not to build new fences between their country and Russia by joining NATO.

The Russian foreign ministry, on its side, stated that Montenegro’s NATO accession will lead to “negative consequences” in relations between Montenegro and Russia, without specifying which sanctions Russia may impose.

Viktor Kolbanovsky, the director of the Balkan Center for International Cooperation, said that Russia’s response could be both diplomatic and economic. “There will be no more visits by the Russian minister of foreign relations and Russian parliamentary delegations to Montenegro,” Kolbanovsky said at a conference in Moscow. “But Montenegro’s leaders should understand that joining NATO without consulting the people would mean economic losses for them. There are many companies in Montenegro’s hotel business, transportation and other spheres, which have Russian capital in them. Degradation of relations may damage the companies which give jobs to hundreds of Montenegrins.”

Russian Duma’s vice-speaker Sergei Zheleznyak stressed that Russia is not forcing its will on Montenegro’s people, but rather supports the right of that country’s people to hold a referendum on Montenegro’s membership in NATO.

The controversy around Montenegro comes at a critical time in Russia-NATO relations, when Moscow is in bitter conflict with Turkey, a NATO member, over its downing of a Russian aircraft that crashed on Syrian territory in the end of November. It is in the interest of NATO’s member countries to have a working relationship with Russia, as the alliance needs Russia’s help if it indeed wants to defeat the so called Islamic State.

Russia’s mediation in signing the recent agreement between the US and Iran was also very important. So, why couldn’t NATO choose a different time for taking in a tiny nation of 680 thousand people? The answer could be the political crisis that has been gripping Montenegro since the early autumn of 2015.

“Djukanovic knows he has not got a lot of time. People are tired of Djukanovic, who has been running the country for 26 years, and they don’t want to choose between Western Europe and Russia,” explained Milan Knezhevic, the leader of Montenegro’s Democratic People’s party and one of the co-chairmen of the Democratic Front (DF). DF is a union of anti-Djukanovic parties, which has been holding a several weeks long protest rally near the parliament’s building in Podhoritsa.

“What we want is not NATO membership, but security guarantees from both Russia and NATO, that would prop up Montenegro’s neutrality”, Knezhevic said. Alas, it looks like the window of opportunity to be both a European and a neutral nation – that window is being shut quickly, and not by Russia. Austria and Switzerland were lucky to have used that window many years ago.

Comment by the Information and Press Department on invitation for Montenegro to start talks on joining NATO, 2 December 2015

02.12.2015 20:08

We perceive the decision of foreign ministers, participants in the December 1-2 North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels, to launch NATO accession talks with Montenegro as an openly confrontationist move which is fraught with additional destabilising consequences for the system of Euro-Atlantic security.

Contrary to the objective need to pool collective efforts for combating the increasingly numerous current threats and challenges and searching for joint solutions that would improve the European security situation, the alliance has once again reaffirmed its unchanged line aimed at expanding its geopolitical sphere without any reservations, to artificially divide various countries into ‘friendly’ and ‘alien’ and to promote its own security concepts to the detriment of the security of others.

This new round of the alliance’s expansion directly affects the interests of the Russian Federation and forces us to respond accordingly.

Comment by the Information and Press Department on invitation for Montenegro to start talks on joining NATO

Comment by the Information and Press Department on invitation for Montenegro to start talks on joining NATO

02.12.2015 20:08

We perceive the decision of foreign ministers, participants in the December 1-2 North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels, to launch NATO accession talks with Montenegro as an openly confrontationist move which is fraught with additional destabilising consequences for the system of Euro-Atlantic security.

Contrary to the objective need to pool collective efforts for combating the increasingly numerous current threats and challenges and searching for joint solutions that would improve the European security situation, the alliance has once again reaffirmed its unchanged line aimed at expanding its geopolitical sphere without any reservations, to artificially divide various countries into ‘friendly’ and ‘alien’ and to promote its own security concepts to the detriment of the security of others.

This new round of the alliance’s expansion directly affects the interests of the Russian Federation and forces us to respond accordingly.

NATO invitation to Montenegro: Provocative, wrong moment

02.12.2015 15:23

Inviting Montenegro to join the NATO alliance, the west has provoked Russia, because it needs Russia to resolve the conflict in Syria, Jan Oberg of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research told RT.

On Wednesday NATO officially invited Montenegro to become an Alliance member. There have been protests in the country against joining the bloc as NATO bombed the country in 1999. The opposition has demanded a referendum on the membership in the military alliance.

Russia has expressed its concerns about NATO expansion. In September, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called it a ‘provocation.’ The Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg said the decision to invite Montenegro to become a full NATO member “is not about Russia” and “is not directed against anyone.”

RT: The NATO chief was asked whether they've taken Russia's concerns into account. This will be another eastward expansion for the Alliance, near Russia's borders. How worried should Moscow be?

Jan Oberg: Maybe not too much, but this is the wrong moment given the situation between NATO and Russia. The West needs Russia in Syria and elsewhere. Secondly this is provocative... I see it as a sign of weakness. There is no particular reason why Montenegro at this point should get this invitation if an alliance of so many countries, with so many weapons seem to be very proud of getting a small more or less corrupt country into NATO without a referendum there, it is really a weak alliance if they feel that they can do some chest beating because of this... Secondly, how will Serbia react? How will the neighbors react?

RT: And how do you expect Russia to respond?

JO: Well, there will be a diplomatic grumpy response to this, which is understandable given the other measures that NATO has taken in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. If NATO is an alliance of democracies – why not have a referendum? We have thousands of people demonstrating in Montenegro against this. It is done by means of lawmakers, but it is the same problem we have everywhere in the Western so-called democratic world – that the elite are doing things that people don’t want. It applies to Denmark and Sweden, it applies to the US, it applies to France, it applies to Montenegro. So let’s be democratic and get them into NATO if that is what the will of the people is.

Now, I don’t see any point in all these things, because they are all done without alternatives. Let the Montenegrin people get five models of how to secure their future and let them vote democratically. This either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ has nothing to do with democracy. I tell you – there is no problems in Montenegro that can be solved by NATO membership and participation in anti-terror or the war on terror and bring terror to Montenegro.

RT: It's been 16 years since Montenegro was bombed by NATO, and these memories are surely still fresh in the minds of some locals there. Why were the people denying a referendum on joining the Alliance?

JO: Because it is not a democratic leadership – everybody who has followed [Milo] Dukanovic over the years knows that this is not a democracy in a genuine sense of the word. We also know that it is a country with quite a lot to judge from, quite a lot of media report, ... economic corruption…

So if this is what NATO boosts itself within this crisis situation - it is an alliance on its way down. Everything the West is doing at the moment is characterized by [following words]: “split, division, lack of coordination, lack of common purpose, lack of political ideas.” And only a falling back, no matter what the problem is – on militarism; military responses; military this and militarily that - exercises, new acquisitions, new expeditionary forces...Even Iraq is now saying it doesn’t want US troops on the ground, while... the Secretary of the Defense of the US [Ashton] Carter has obviously forgotten to ask them whether they want that, because that what he announced the other day. It is falling apart for the West.