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There have been several claims that there was an agreement between NATO and USSR at the end of the Cold War. This agreement supposedly required NATO to reject any membership applications from the nations formerly part of the Warsaw Pact. If this agreement really did exist, it was violated already in 1990 by the inclusion of East Germany and again in 1999 by the inclusion of Poland, Hungary and Czech republic. However I have failed to find a reliable source for this agreement. Was this agreement never in writing and reached only by oral communication and then broken or misinterpreted entirely? Did this agreement exist at all?

EDIT: East Germany did not enter NATO as a nation. Instead East German territories were incorporated to West Germany.

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    Russians claim that there was such (oral) promise, but this is not confirmed by any signed document. – Alex Feb 25 '18 at 14:43
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    East Germany (GDR) did not join the NATO, ever. What happened there was that the GDR ceased to exist, and the FRG (being a NATO member) expanded to include the five federal states constituting the former GDR territory. That was an extension of "NATO borders" eastward, but it was not the acceptance of a former Warsaw Pact nation into NATO. That means the earliest violation of such an agreement, if it existed (which I won't judge in a comment), would have been the 1999 inclusion of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech republic. – DevSolar Feb 26 '18 at 13:31
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    The Soviets at the time may not have been the diplomatic masterminds Ian Fleming portrayed them as, but they weren't country rubes either. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the US system knows the only thing approaching a "promise" is a treaty ratified by Congress. Anything oral from an official is only going to be good for the tenure of the human being issuing it, at best. – T.E.D. Feb 26 '18 at 15:01
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    @T.E.D. What's hindsight against the want to believe in a peaceful future then? Until Saddam came along many tried to believe in a Fukuyama- view of end of history, "this time is different". Concerning "rubes": try searching for "Горбачев, идиот". His image in the East is vastly different and more divisive than most people realise, often not very flattering. – LangLangC Feb 26 '18 at 17:05
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    " East German territories were incorporated to West Germany and then the nation was renamed". Err, no. We have been the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany) since 23th May, 1949, and did not change that name upon re-unification with the GDR. The GDR simply ceased to exist at that point and its territories fell under FRG jurisdiction. – Polygnome Feb 26 '18 at 18:11
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tl;dr

Yes, arguably. There were several repeated assurances that NATO would not expand, given only orally or in letters, public newspaper articles, but no official treaty signed over this. This was heard from the Soviet side and is still interpreted by the Russian side today as "a promise". But it was a mere prerequisite for opening talks with the Soviets about the Germany merger in the first place and later left aside from both sides, for different reasons.
And No, arguably. The view that this promise was "broken" might be seen as an over-interpretation since in the meantime to admitting new NATO-members several changes occurred, among them the political development between the Soviet Union successor states, former Warsaw Pact members and Nato that ended in signing a treaty with Moscow in 1997 that made membership for Poland etc possible. The last treaty might be seen as the Russians renouncing the promise of non-expansion of NATO (leaving out certain key elements that lead up to this treaty and its "promises") — and therefore the West as released from a promise that the West never considered legally binding anyway.


This is no easy story.

Promises made leading up to West-German expansion ("re-unification")

Gorbachev insisted for quite a long time that the West – that is politicians and diplomats of various ranks from a number of NATO member states, chief among them Baker, Kohl and Genscher – indeed "promised" to the Soviets that NATO would not expand any further Eastward after the GDR was absorbed into West-Germany. In his autobiography and later in interviews he repeatedly told that this was the case:

The Americans promised that Nato wouldn't move beyond the boundaries of Germany after the Cold War but now half of central and eastern Europe are members, so what happened to their promises? It shows they cannot be trusted.
(From: Gorbachev: US could start new Cold War (2008))

Some Western analysts now come to the same conclusion: Russia's got a point: The U.S. broke a NATO promise (LA-Times 2016).

A German magazine with a generally strong anti-Russian leaning in recent years writes:

After speaking with many of those involved and examining previously classified British and German documents in detail, SPIEGEL has concluded that there was no doubt that the West did everything it could to give the Soviets the impression that NATO membership was out of the question for countries like Poland, Hungary or Czechoslovakia.

This stream of assurances started and was necessary to get the opposing Soviet side to accept German unification. That is, before, during and after the 2+4-Talks it was negotiated that the GDR would be absorbed into the NATO-member West-Germany and the so enlarged (West-)Germany would still remain a regular member of the Western military alliance:

Earlier in the conversation, Baker had given assurances to Gorbachev that were to play an important role several years later in the vehement Russian opposition to any further eastward expansion of NATO – to include former members of the Warsaw Pact and even former Soviet republics like the Baltic States. If Germany were to remain part of NATO, Baker said, “there would be no extension of NATO's jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east.”[…]
In the (deliberately created?) atmosphere of ambiguity the stage for the formal consent was finally set. By mid-July, in a plethora of private talks and the Two Plus Four meetings at the foreign ministers' level, clarification was achieved as to the form that NATO's first eastward expansion could take:

  • Non-integrated German units could be stationed in the former GDR immediately after Germany regained full sovereignty, and German NATO-integrated forces after the withdrawal of Soviet troops, but no allied forces.
  • Germany would not produce or possess nuclear, bacteriological or chemical weapons.
  • NATO would transform its structure and its role in Europe, emphasize its political role.

(From: Hannes Adomeit: "Gorbachev’s Consent to Unified Germany’s Membership in NATO", Paper Delivered to the Conference on “Europe and the End of the Cold War,” at the Université de Sorbonne, Paris, June 15.17, 2006.)

This is all about the interpretation of words. And it is also about the reframing of history. A formal agreement to not accept any states from Warsaw Pact into NATO was never written out in a treaty. That is true. But it's not only Russia's current view on the matter that concludes that the leaders of the Soviet Union were "tricked". Subsequent aims and offers from the Russian side to improve relations and co-operation were often just ignored. Western archives support this view to a certain extent:

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.” The key phrase, buttressed by the documents, is “led to believe.”

(From NATO Expansion: What Gorbachev Heard – Declassified documents show security assurances against NATO expansion to Soviet leaders from Baker, Bush, Genscher, Kohl, Gates, Mitterrand, Thatcher, Hurd, Major, and Woerner
National Security Archive at the George Washington University)

Several newspaper articles from that era and the following years confirm these recent "discoveries":
New York Times 1990: Upheaval In The East: Soviet Union; Kohl Says Moscow Agrees Unity Issue

Der Spiegel 1993: „Unser Traum wird früher Wirklichkeit“
The relevant parts of that German magazine article are almost repeated in English here:
New York Times 2009: Enlarging NATO, Expanding Confusion:

What would Mr. Gorbachev demand in return? To learn the answer, Mr. Baker and Mr. Kohl journeyed to Moscow within a day of each other. On Feb. 9, 1990, Mr. Baker asked Mr. Gorbachev, “Would you prefer to see a unified 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? Mr. Gorbachev, according to Mr. Baker, answered that “any extension of the zone of NATO would be unacceptable.” Their meeting ended without any final deals made. Mr. Baker left behind a secret letter, detailing what he had said, for Mr. Kohl in Moscow.
While Mr. Baker was in Moscow, though, members of the National Security Council back in Washington were worrying about his comment that NATO would not move eastward. To undo the damage they felt Mr. Baker had caused, they drafted a letter that President Bush sent to Mr. Kohl later that day.
The presidential letter included language that differed in a subtle but significant way from the language offered by the secretary of state. Instead of a pledge about NATO’s borders, Mr. Bush suggested that East German territory be given a “special military status” within NATO. What that status would consist of was to be negotiated later, but the core assumption was clear. NATO would grow and former East German areas would have a special status within the alliance as it did so.
A foreign leader can see daylight between a president and his secretary of state from the other side of the world, and Mr. Kohl did not have to look that far. He just had to read the differing phrasings used by Mr. Bush and Mr. Baker to notice it. So whose language did Mr. Kohl echo in his own talks with Mr. Gorbachev the next day, Feb. 10 — the president’s or the secretary’s?
Mr. Kohl chose to echo Mr. Baker, not Mr. Bush. The chancellor assured Mr. Gorbachev, as Mr. Baker had done, that “naturally NATO could not expand its territory” into East Germany. The documents available do not record Mr. Kohl using the presidential phrase — “special military status” — that the National Security Council had rushed over to him. Mr. Kohl’s foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, visiting the Kremlin as well, assured his Soviet counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, that “for us, it stands firm: NATO will not expand itself to the East.”

Did NATO 'promise' not to expand?
Yes. Countless times from 1989–1993 representatives of member states did just that. To Gorbachev and the SU as well as his successors. Just not in writing; that is: in the form of a signed treaty. Politicians and others, regardless of affiliation, claiming the opposite today, are just lying. Even the German parliament disseminates official "factsheets" to its members, detailing for example that Baker's later denials are counterfactual. It is not believable that those proponents of this view just do not know any better. Time has progressed and times have changed and the lack of a signed treaty on this, that went through all steps of formalisation, ratification etc may be interpreted as somewhere between "no promise" or "long ago"/"the view at the time", "necessary ruse", or "irrelevant today".
While Moscow was never a real fan of NATO's eastward expansion, the current interpretation from the Russian side favours this view of outspoken promises, that were not kept afterwards or really broken in 1997/99.
One note concerning how the question is currently phrased: Whether anything "required NATO to reject any membership applications from the nations formerly part of the Warsaw Pact" is a tricky phrase, and can be easily answered with a resounding "No". "Required" and "reject" are words that were indeed never used in public discourse. It was always something with less precision, like "move", "expansion", without naming names of any other states.

Assurances after the fact — and this time: treaties signed

Karikatur Verbotene Triebe From: LeMo NATO-Erweiterungen

On the other side of the debate, NATO expansion was seen internally as a largely anathematic idea from 1989 to 1993. Too risky and certainly not open for open debate, whatever think tanks and single politicians produced in the meantime. This changed only in 1993 when German minister of defence Volker Rühe named the elephant in the room during the security summit (IISS) and opened a debate that was met with great skepticism after the years of taboo. This coincided somewhat with the still perceived a threat of Soviet/Russian forces still stationed on German soil. Once this concept got more traction after Bill Clinton adopted it:

Initially, it was not something that most people wanted to discuss, let alone support. Many said it could not be done. It was too hard, too ambitious. It was suggested that the American people were not willing to expand their commitments in Europe after the end of the Cold War. Some predicted a policy train wreck with Moscow and the derailment of Russian reform. (Senator Lugar, Arora p126.)

The following years were filled with attempts and initiatives to reduce Russian opposition for enlargement. This time hinting at the possible future membership of Russia itself, since the rhetoric in the day was to bring "Eastern Europe countries back into Europe". Both sides proposed several possible concrete forms of co-operation, of which for example the Partnership for Peace did materialise, ineffective as it was. The Russian leadership under Yeltsin gradually lowered its guards in hope of future cooperation and:

On 27 May 1997, Russia and the Alliance signed the Founding Act on Mutual Relations at the Elysée Palace in Paris. With the signing of the Act, NATO had now won Russian acceptance of its right to enlarge. (Arora, p195.)

From: Chaya Arora: "Germany’s Civilian Power Diplomacy. NATO Expansion and the Art of Communicative Action", Palgrave Macmillan: New York, Basingstoke, 2006.

Conclusion

There were assurances given by NATO representatives, and deliberately left ambiguous, and kept out of any treaties at the time of German unification. The Russian side was led to believe and did believe these words as a promise. Whether it was caused just by the speed of unfolding events, the general political turmoil across Eastern Europe or short sighted trust misguided through misinterpretations, r even personal ineptitudes, in the end the Soviets had no signed papers about this promise to show for.
In the following years of imagined peace dividend a process unfolded that more often than not alluded to a very close partnership or even a possible membership of Russia in a very much enlarged NATO, that might then be more accurately described as a political organisation and less of military alliance. In the light of these developments Russia then formally agreed to NATO enlargement. Due to the fact that neither membership nor even partnership enfolded in the way Russia envisioned or hoped for, but produced only several dysfunctional paper tigers, led to the conclusion in Moscow that the West had betrayed Russia all the time. Both sides have valid points in interpreting the political or moral obligations that might follow from the words exchanged, especially in late 89 and early 90. Morally or compared to an interpersonal level, NATO's argumentatio is weak and low, legally, from a perspective of international law, their position might be called "correct". The later denials from some of those involved at the time on the Western side are often walking very wobbly the line between re-interpretation of history and blatant lies surrounding the events.

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    The Spiegel source is excellent and very throughout, but not as one-sided as you make it sound. For instance, it points that their was no signed commitment, that Shevarnadze himself denies a moral commitment today. Also: "why didn't Gorbachev and Shevardnadze get the West's commitments in writing at a time when they still held all the cards? "The Warsaw Pact still existed at the beginning of 1990," Gorbachev says today. "Merely the notion that NATO might expand to include the countries in this alliance sounded completely absurd at the time."" : it was just not a big topic ! – Evargalo Feb 26 '18 at 9:23
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    "Not one inch to the East" was a very big topic then. Everyone wanted to believe those politicians. What those two say today is in Shevardnadse's case a documented reversal in positions and for Gorbatchev a case of memory issues. Initially also some other "absurdities" were also deliberated: whether all of the WP including SU/Russia might join EG/EU and NATO. Later Putin took up on these offers in a speech before German parliament. – LangLangC Feb 26 '18 at 12:42
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    The quote specified doesn't appear to support your (or SPIEGEL's?) thesis. Baker appeared to be talking about not immediately rolling NATO troops into the former GDR territory upon reunification. That has nothing to do with NATO taking in new members at some future time. (...reads through article...) Yup, that's exactly what Baker was claiming he was talking about. – T.E.D. Feb 26 '18 at 14:08
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    @T.E.D. Back then and today, many people interpreted it that way. Certainly Russia does now, still. "Not one inch", NATO more a political role etc. Legally, Baker et al are fine. That's just the point: public promises, deliberately phrased to give a wrong impression, not fixated in writing. Trying to calm SU worries while planning to keep the possibilities open. The way they understood then, remember and interpret this now: we were betrayed, tricked. In a sense, they were. Other hand: why put so much trust into spoken words that not many can expect to be valid for eternity? – LangLangC Feb 26 '18 at 14:21
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    @DevSolar Hm. Rereading the latest body of the Q you are at least kind of right about the framing wrt '99. Seems another edit must done. (Re timing of words: Since e.g. Baker's & Genscher's words were public in newspapers long before the dementis, and left undisputed, when then much later those "never said that" statements were made [instead of e.g. times changed, minds changed], that & the reinterpretation are a lie in my view.) Have to think and research a bit more on the frame thing. Thx for your insistence. – LangLangC Feb 28 '18 at 17:33
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No Gobachev didn't get such a commitment because Gobachev didn't foresee the whole sale evaporation of the Soviet Union, nor did anybody in the West in 1989. Thus no such commitment would be necessary.

Gorbachev didn't decide to dissolve the Soviet Union December 25, 1991. The Soviet Union un-expectantly collapsed from its own fiscal weight when it could no longer afford to operate. Gorbachov himself left the Kremlin when officials (Boris Yeltsin) literally turned the lights off in the Kremlin. The end was that surreal.

From a vision stand point Gorbachov made a few mistakes leading up to having his office lights turned off on him. Mistakes which he could have mitigated had he understood what was happening.

(1) Yetsin had been democratically elected and thus seemed to possess more credibility with the people than did Gorbachov who was appointed by the Soviet infrastructure. If Gorbachov had stood for elections earlier when he was popular enough to have won; he may have been able to win a popular stand off with Yeltsin.

(2) Gorbachov survived (both physically and politically) a coup attempt in August of 1991 where leaders of the former Soviet Union tried to retire him as had once been done to Nikita Khrushchev. Gorbachov did not survive due to his own political acumen but rather his primary rival Yeltsin proved too popular with the people, including rank and file soviet troops who ended up turning away from soviet commanders in favor of Yeltsin's authority. Here again Gorbachev was entirely unprepared for the betrayal, and was saved as an side effect by Yeltsin’s bold confrontation of soviet troops sent to arrest him.

But Gorbachov never saw the big picture of what was happening to the Soviet Union. Nobody did. Everybody saw the bleeding, nobody realized the collapse was imminent. Nobody in the west saw it, not even famously multi billion dollar intelligence agencies who had studied little else for six decades. Suggesting Gorbachov foresaw any of this in a timely manor and was able to illicit terms from the west is absurd. Everybody thought the Soviet Union was just tightening the belt, adjusting policy, nobody realized the super power, vaunted NATO boogie man, was about to succumb to systemic organ failure from decades of neglect.

Now the Wall in Germany came down a 9 November 1989. Its possible at that time if Gorbachov understood what was happening, perhaps he had leverage to negotiate such an arrangement with NATO member states. That would have occurred with individual member nations and would mean 16 separate agreements which is the only way such an pact would be creditable. Membership in NATO must be unanimous so one nay vote is technically enough to block a new member, but to block all of Eastern Europe when many in the west believes Stalin stole anyway would take a huge block to keep out. To further dismiss this proposition Gorbachov's own admission he agreed that a unified Germany would go into NATO; and no other former WARSAW pact nation was in play Nov 1989. Gorbachev didn’t know just two years latter the power would be turned off to his office. Gorbachev didn’t even realize that the morning of the event, nobody did. It's not likely Gorbachev saw the Soviet retreat from all of Eastern Europe, or Eastern Europes mass defection to the West. The rest of the WARSAW Pact countries didn't follow an orderly line out of the Soviet Union. As the Soviet Union contracted, the Soviet friendly governments were replaced by more independent minded governments and the entire exercise was out of Gorbachev's or frankly NATO's control.

I think Gorbachov's book is basically one meant for domestic consumption. Michael Gorbachov goes down in history in the West as a great leader who rode his sinking ship down the tubes in an orderly manner. He certainly wasn't the architect, but he would be the captain of that collapse. To his great credit he didn't allow the instability he inherited to motivate him to pursue a messy military solution. I think domestically in Russia, however; history does not treat him as kindly and that is why he would suggest he was somehow betrayed by the West. I think in Russia domestically they actually think what was called for then was another Stalin like leader. A strong man willing to massacre millions of citizens to keep the empire together. Of coarse most Russian nationalists look back fondly on Stalin and don't delve too closely with the whole second or third largest mass murder of the 20th century history. This phantom talk of an agreement in keeping former Warsaw Pact nations out of NATO is thus an excuse for domestic consumption to excuse what the Russian populous believes was Gorbachev's personal failure. Suggesting Gorbachev had the foresight to seek terms, was honorably given terms, but he was betrayed by the west; dismisses the entire relationship between the Soviet Union and the West. The entire thread of events relies on 20/20 hind sight, because actual events occurred so quickly and where so shockingly unforeseen nobody in Russia or the West were aware the end was near until Gorbachev was literally sitting in the dark.

Page 108, Constructing Cassandra: Reframing Intelligence Failure at the CIA, 1947-2001

Admiral Stansfield Turner, Former Director of the Central Inteligence Agency.
We should not gloss over the enormity of this failure to forecast the magnitude of the Soviet crisis... Yet I never heard a suggestion from the CIA, or the intelligence arms of the departments of Defense or State, that numerous Soviet recognized a growing, systemic economic problem. Today we hear some revisionists rumblings the the CIA did in fact see the Soviet collapse emerging after all. If some individual CIA analysts were more prescient than the corporate view, their ideas were filtered out in the bureaucratic process; and it is the corporate view that counts because that is what reaches the President and his advisers. In this one, the corporate view missed by a mile." ....

Page 840: Readings in Russian Civilization, Volume 3: Soviet Russia, 1917-Pressent.
In response to a French book by Michel Garder entitled "The Death Struggles of a Regime" predicting the fall of the Soviet Union.

American Soviet Expert and Yale Professor Frederick C. Barghoorn Garder's book is the latest of a long line of apocalyptic predictions of the collapse of communism. Such prophecies ignore the fact that great revolutions are most infrequent, and that successful political systems are tenacious and adaptive.

.

Foreign Policy Magazine.
Every revolution is a surprise. Still, the latest Russian Revolution must be counted among the greatest of surprises. In the years leading up to 1991, virtually no Western expert, scholar, official, or politician foresaw the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it one-party dictatorship, the state-owned economy, and the Kremlin’s control over its domestic and Eastern European empires. Neither, with one exception, did Soviet dissidents nor, judging by their memoirs, future revolutionaries themselves. When Mikhail Gorbachev became general secretary of the Communist Party in March 1985, none of his contemporaries anticipated a revolutionary crisis. Although there were disagreements over the size and depth of the Soviet system’s problems, no one thought them to be life-threatening, at least not anytime soon.

(*) One reason the west was so blind to the weakness of the Soviet Union was frankly Ronald Reagan. Reagan had won the Presidency in 1980 on the platform that Russia was eclipsing the United States and the West in military power. That through laziness and bad political deals in the west and through diligent hard work in the east; the Soviets were opening a gap of power between the West and East. This was the popular belief in the West in the 1980's and justified a massive rearmament process under Reagan which nearly tripled the national debt. 1 Trillion to 2.8 Trillion under Reagan's 8 years. When George Bush came to power in 1989 I think the West was realizing the Cold War was coming to an end due to Gorbachov's policies. Bush cut military spending 10% in all four years of his Presidency and still ran massive deficits. The only Western advisor who I know who predicted the collapse was the discredited Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Zbigniew had lost credibility during the Iranian hostage crisis under Jimmy Carter who's entire foreign policy was not "particularly effective". In 1989 however Zbigniew would come ragging back. Shortly before the Berlin Wall came down Zbigniew published a book entitled, The Grand Failure: The Birth and Decay of Communism in the Twentieth Century(Published March 1, 1990).

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I think Zbigniew won back a lot of credibility during the Soviet Collapse as he became an influential advisor on how the West handled the collapse. I think specifically on the reunification of Germany. The West had some misgivings, although short-lived as they were, about that reunification, as did the East.

NY Times: Director (Robert Gates) Admits CIA Fell Short In Predicting the Soviet Collapse

Sources:
Book: Constructing Cassandra: Reframing Intelligence Failure at the CIA, 1947-2001
Book: Readings in Russian Civilization, Volume 3: Soviet Russia, 1917-Pressent
NY Times: Director (Robert Gates) Admits CIA Fell Short In Predicting the Soviet Collapse
Foreign Policy Magazine: Everything you Think You Know About the Collapse of the Soviet Union is Wrong
Wikipedia: Boris Yeltsin
Wikipedia: Nikita Khrushchev

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    Mostly agreeing: Gorbi's books were translated also because he is very popular outside of Russian lang-sphere. He always gets headlines now when criticising Putin. Somehow that influence is lost when he praises P. Not holding him for an idiot myself: analysing his character or statements only from major Western news outlets leads everyone down a garden path… – LangLangC Feb 27 '18 at 2:56
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    @LangLangC He was in a tough situation during a difficult time, and IMO played the best game he could with the hand he was dealt. – KorvinStarmast Feb 27 '18 at 3:13
  • It's not likely Gorbachev saw the Soviet retreat from all of Eastern Europe - actually this was pretty obvious by that time. The trick is that from the Soviets point of view the whole story looked like "The Cold War is over, we don't need to form any blocks to ditch each other anymore... peace, happiness, la-la-land...". Apparently (as it turned out later) it was seen in a very different way from US/NATO corner. But that's more a matter of modern politics I guess rather than a History. – seven-phases-max Feb 27 '18 at 20:34
  • History is the Soviet Unions economic troubles lead to dramatic changes in their foreign and domestic policies. Nobody, Nobody understood Perestroika and Glasnost were harbingers of the final days of the Soviet Union. You say OBVIOUS, I say not one intelligence agency predicted it. The Beginning of the end of the Cold War sure. But the wheels coming off a super power, no way. The editorials in the major newspapers in 1991 were about the greatest Inteligence failure in the history of mankind. They all missed it, and they were paid and equiped well to be watching. – JMS Feb 27 '18 at 20:55
  • @JMS The quote was: "the Soviet retreat from all of Eastern Europe" and it has very few to do with the SU dissolution itself. (Refresh your knowledge of the political situations in Eastern Europe countries in 88...89 and it becomes really obvious nobody could think that it's going to remain the way it was in "vanilla" 1945..85 times). – seven-phases-max Feb 27 '18 at 21:07

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