A speech given by NATO Secretary General Manfred Wörner on 17 May 1990 is still available on the NATO website here. And so is its contradiction here. NATO has to do a better job of pruning its site, I think. Some Winston Smith toiling away in the bowels of NATO's Minitrue failed to spot Wörner's unspeech and drop it down the Memory Hole. So, read it now, while it's still there.
Here's today's version:
Claim: NATO leaders promised at the time of German reunification that the Alliance would not expand to the East
Fact: No such promise was ever made, and Russia has never produced any evidence to back up its claim.
Every formal decision which NATO takes is adopted by consensus and recorded in writing. There is no written record of any such decision having been taken by the Alliance.
Moreover, at the time of the alleged promise, the Warsaw Pact still existed. Its members did not agree on its dissolution until 1991. Therefore, it is not plausible to suggest that the idea of their accession to NATO was on the agenda in 1989.
So let's see what Wörner, still I should imagine considered a “NATO leader” even in the new NATO of today, had to say in those far-off days of 1990. (My emphasis)
The primary 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.
We have to find solutions that respect the legitimate security interests of all the participants - including the Soviet Union. I emphasize: all participants; in other words not only the Soviet Union. That nation has a right to expect that German unification and Germany's membership of the Atlantic Alliance will not prejudice its security. But it is also clear that it cannot expect us to put NATO's existence on the line and thus give it something that it never succeeded in obtaining in the past, even at the height of its power. The West cannot respond to the erosion of the Warsaw Pact with the weakening or even dissolution of the Atlantic Alliance; the only response is to establish a security framework that embraces both alliances : in other words one that draws the Soviet Union into a cooperative Europe.
This will also be true of a united Germany in NATO. The very fact that we are ready not to deploy NATO troops beyond the territory of the Federal Republic gives the Soviet Union firm security guarantees. Moreover we could conceive of a transitional period during which a reduced number of Soviet forces could remain stationed in the present-day GDR. This will meet Soviet concerns about not changing the overall East-West strategic balance. Soviet politicians are wrong to claim that German membership of NATO will lead to instability. The opposite is true. Europe including the Soviet Union would gain stability. It would also gain a genuine partner in the West ready to cooperate.
We have left behind us the old friend/foe mind-set and the confrontational outlook. We do not need enemies nor threat perceptions. We do not look upon the Soviet Union as the enemy. We want that nation to become our partner in ensuring security.
At the same time, our Alliance is changing with the new times and through time. Already during the last two years it has begun to adjust to changed circumstances in the definition of its tasks, substance and policies. This adjustment will continue for some time yet. The centre of gravity of our Alliance is shifting
from confrontation to cooperation,
from a military to a political Alliance,
from deterrence to protection against risks and the guarantee of stability,
from peace-keeping to peace-building,
from a US-led Alliance to a genuine partnership with the Europeans now playing an equal leadership role.
The forthcoming NATO Summit will consecrate this new sharing of leadership roles within the Alliance, and it will produce a broad-ranging strategy for the changing Europe of the nineties.
Europe has a basic choice: either it lapses back into the old power politics and balance of power diplomacy of past centuries or it moves ahead along the road leading to a new order of peace and freedom, whether this be based on multinational or supranational cooperation. Our choice is clear: we are going forward. Our Alliance together with the European Community is the most successful model of such multinational cooperation. It is and will remain our best guarantee for a future of security and freedom.
So, what do you say, folks? Is that a “promise by a NATO leader” or what? Certainly talking about something a lot different than what we got once NATO expansion started, wasn't he?
However, we may be sure that the people in NATO won't see fit to answer the question.
My next observation is that NATO, in its countering of Putin's so-called propaganda war with things like NATO-Russia relations: the facts, ought to do a better job of getting its facts right. Otherwise, it's just too easy for Putin trolls like me to poke holes in their stories.