As the USSR came to an end three decades ago, the West was careful to temper its joy with magnanimity. „I have not jumped up and down on the Berlin Wall,“ President George H.W. Bush pointed out to Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, at a summit in Malta in 1989. Months later James Baker, America’s secretary of state, delivered an assurance to Mr Gorbachev in Moscow: „If we maintain a presence in a Germany that is a part of NATO… there would be no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction… one inch to the east.“ Even as the Soviet Union finally crumbled in 1991, John Major, Britain’s prime minister, repeated the pledge. „We are not talking about strengthening of NATO,“ he said.
Yet strengthened NATO was. In 30 years the alliance has expanded more than 1.000km to the east of the former front line dividing Germany. A bloc that once shared only a slender border with Russia, in Norway’s northern fringes, now encompasses the Baltic states, former Soviet territories within 200km of St Petersburg and 600km of Moscow. Seven of the eight former members of the Warsaw Pact. At a summit in Bucharest in 2008, America persuaded the rest of NATO to declare that Ukraine und Georgia „will become“ members.
Because things didn’t go so well as hoped with NATO, Ukraine made another attempt at boosting its ties with the West with an association agreement with the EU. But in the summer of 2013, just a few months before the official signing of the document, Moscow played hardball and exerted massive economic pressure on Kyiv, which forced the government of then-President Yanukovych to put the agreement on ice. It effectively placed an embargo on Ukrainian goods headed for Russia, sparking massive opposition protests throughout the country. In February of the following year, Ukraine’s president fled to Russia.
The Kreml took advantage of the power vacuum in Kyiv and annexed Crimea in March of 2014. It was a turning point relations between the two countries and the beginning of the undeclared war between the two sides. Last April 2021 Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the West not to cross a „red line“ with Russia, saying such a move would trigger an „asymmetrical, rapid and harsh“ response. And that line seems to be a NATO-Membership of the Ukraine and Belarus.
Till today Russia has moved more than 100,000 troops close to disputed areas. A large part of that force is in Crimea. US intelligence findings have estimated that Russia could begin a military offensive in Ukraine „as soon as early 2022“.
Sean Connery: The Hunt for Red October by John McTiernan, 1990
cnn.com, Matthew Chance and Laura Smith-Spark, 10.01.2022
economist.com, Briefing, 08.01.2022
dw.com, Roman Goncharenko, 22.12.2021