Absent from U.S. media encomia for recently deceased former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze is any mention of the historic deal he reached with his U.S. counterpart James Baker in 1990 ensuring that the Soviet empire would collapse "with a whimper, not a bang" (Mr. Baker's words).
Mr. Baker keeps repeating that the Cold War "could not have ended peacefully without Shevardnadze." But he and others are silent on the quid pro quo. The quid was Moscow's agreement to swallow the bitter pill of a reunited Germany in NATO; the quo was a U.S. promise not to "leapfrog" NATO over Germany farther East. Washington welched on the deal.
It began to unravel in October 1996 during the last weeks of President Bill Clinton's campaign for re-election. Mr. Clinton bragged that he would welcome Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO, explaining, "America truly is the world's indispensable nation" (and, sotto voce, can do what it wants).
Those three countries joined NATO in 1999, and by April 2009, nine more became members, bringing the post-Cold War additions to 12 — equal to the number of the original 12 NATO states. The additional nine included the former Baltic Republics that had been part of the USSR, but not Ukraine. NATO intentions, however, were made clear at its summit in Bucharest in April 2008, which formally declared, "Georgia and Ukraine will be in NATO."
This post was published at Baltimore Sun