In 1990, during the negotiations for Soviet withdrawal from Eastern Europe, Gorbachev said that he wanted united Germany to become a nonaligned and nuclear-free state. Helmut Kohl gave the impression that he was warm to the idea of a united Germany getting out of NATO, being nonaligned, and being free of nuclear missiles.
Kohl eventually decided to stay in NATO because of American pressure—the Americans did not want to lose their military foothold in Europe, so they insisted that Germany must remain in NATO. James Baker assured his counterparts in the Soviet Union that NATO would not expand eastward by an inch. But after the Soviet Union had withdrawn its troops from Eastern Europe, and Germany was unified, the American side reneged on their promise. NATO began to expand eastward. In 1996, Bill Clinton declared that eastward expansion of NATO was a crucial part of his presidency.
Between 1999 and 2017, fourteen Eastern European countries became part of NATO: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.
At the June 2021 Brussels summit, NATO leaders declared that they had decided to make Ukraine part of NATO. This declaration was extreme provocation; it forced Putin’s hand—if he did not invade Ukraine, then NATO would have reached Russia’s border. It is America’s and NATO’s warlords, not Putin, who are responsible for the ongoing war in Ukraine.