Ukraine-Russia crisis: Why Nato should stop expanding east – Kenny MacAskill MP

The invasion of Ukraine’s appalling, has been rightly condemned and sanctions were long overdue against Russian oligarchs.

Nato troops from various countries are regularly sent to member states like Estonia, which shares a border with Russia (Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Nato troops from various countries are regularly sent to member states like Estonia, which shares a border with Russia (Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

But there ultimately requires to be a political not a military solution to avoid global catastrophe and a major part of discussions will be Nato expansion.

At the heart of that is whether Russia or the former Soviet Union were given assurances by the West that they wouldn’t be surrounded, or their borders encroached upon.

That’s something other countries have demanded in past years such as the USA with the Cuban missile crisis or intervention in their “backyard” with the “Contras” in Nicaragua. Now I don’t like Vladimir Putin, but if Ukraine joins Nato, it’s right on Russia’s doorstep, not just in their backyard.

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Some say assurances were given and others say not. Even former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev seems rather unclear.

It’s complex as a recent article in Der Spiegel narrated. Discussions in 1990 between East and West have produced different recollections. Roland Dumas, ex-foreign minister of France, states a pledge was given that Nato wouldn’t expand. However, James Baker, a former US Secretary of State, denies that.

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But as the article narrates there appears plenty evidence supporting the former interpretation. John Major on a visit to Moscow in 1991 promised with regard to Russian concerns about Nato that “nothing of the sort will happen”. In 1997, the then Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed to Nato expansion, but complained he only did so because the West forced him.

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Just as close to events was Jack Matlock who was US ambassador in Moscow from 1987 to 1991. He has written that in 1990 “Gorbachev was assured, though not in a formal treaty, that if a unified Germany was allowed to remain in Nato, there would be no movement of Nato jurisdiction to the east, “not one inch”.

It seems clear that although a formal written agreement may not have been reached, assurances were given and more importantly Russia has good reason to believe that they were.

These are dangerous times as Russia’s a nuclear power and is feeling threatened. Let’s defend Ukrainian sovereignty but forsake Nato expansion.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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