Considering the Gorbachev case: Kohl was against the independence of the Baltic states

Consider Gorbachev
Kohl was against the independence of the Baltic states

In 1991, Chancellor Kohl wanted to prevent the Baltic states from becoming independent. He described the collapse of the Soviet Union as a “disaster”. Like his Secretary of State Genscher, the CDU politician also rejected NATO’s eastward expansion. This is now displayed by the released files.

In the years following German reunification, the German government attempted to prevent the independence of the Baltic states and, later, NATO expansion eastward, according to a report in Der Spiegel. When Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania lobbied for their independence from the still-existing Soviet Union, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, on the other hand, stirred up the mood among the Western allies, it was said, citing documents issued by the Federal Foreign Ministry on a regular basis. in 1991.

“Spiegel” quoted Cole in a statement made to then-French President Francois Mitterrand, that the Balts are walking on the “wrong path.” They must be patient with their independence for at least another ten years. Cole said the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union was a “disaster”. Even after its conclusion, the Federal Chancellor offered Russian President Boris Yeltsin to pressure Ukraine for its willingness to form a confederation with Russia.

Worried about Gorbachev’s fall

Federal Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher also opposed NATO’s eastward expansion after the end of the Warsaw Pact, but before the end of the Soviet Union. “It is not in our interests,” Spiegel quoted Genscher from the memos. The FDP foreign minister at the time had given Poland and Hungary the right to belong to NATO, but made it clear that “the point now is not to exercise this right.”

The background was that Kohl and Genscher feared the fall of the Soviet president and reformer Mikhail Gorbachev, which happened at the end of 1991. At that time, powerful formations of Soviet and then Russian troops were still stationed in East Germany.

As an alternative to NATO membership, Eastern European countries were offered membership of the largely non-binding North Atlantic Cooperation Council, which later became the now meaningless Partnership for Peace initiative.

“Discussed in secret conversations”

Jenscher quoted Spiegel as saying from the files at the time: “Initially, the former Warsaw Pact countries intended to become members of NATO. They were discouraged from doing so in secret talks.” The Federal Foreign Minister also recalled the promise made in the negotiations on German unity, according to which there should be no eastern expansion of NATO.

The existence of such a promise, apparently never written down, has been a topic of debate for years. The Russian side in particular repeatedly points to the breach of such a promise, as well as in the justification given by Russian ruler Vladimir Putin for the Russian attack on Ukraine.

From a Western point of view, the statements in this regard, which were attributed to Genscher, were personal expressions of opinion and not texts under international law, especially since the German Foreign Minister had no mandate to do so. In the 1997 NATO-Russia Constitutive Act, there is no indication that NATO’s eastward expansion has been waived, but rather that all states – including Russia – are given the right to “freely choose the means of ensuring their own security”.

The bid for Eastern European countries to join NATO was made in 1997—when Kohl was still in power—at the NATO summit in Madrid, and the bid has been completed since 1999, with Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary joining in first.

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