How would you realistically prevent NATO expansion into Eastern Europe after the Cold War

Near the end of the Cold War Gorbicheve and Bush got together and helped hash out an agreement on German reunification. Part of this included an informal promise to not expand NATO any further into Eastern Europe. That promise of course went up in smoke after the collapse of the Soviet Union but it made me curious about how you could find some other ways to prevent NATO expansion into Eastern Europe?
(Also please don’t bring any of the weird Russian propaganda around this topic into the conversation)
 
To prevent eastern European countries getting in NATO, you have to get them to not want it*. Which means they have to trust Russia not wanting to meddle in their affairs or trying to conquer or Finlandize them.

* Because if they want it, they are going to request it, and when they formally request it, every member of NATO will have to decide on it and denying them membership on grounds that "we promised the USSR to not expand" is a poor reason which most likely isn't in the interest of the one stating it.
 
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Garrison

Donor
Near the end of the Cold War Gorbicheve and Bush got together and helped hash out an agreement on German reunification. Part of this included an informal promise to not expand NATO any further into Eastern Europe. That promise of course went up in smoke after the collapse of the Soviet Union but it made me curious about how you could find some other ways to prevent NATO expansion into Eastern Europe?
(Also please don’t bring any of the weird Russian propaganda around this topic into the conversation)
This has been brought up several times, mostly to justify Russian behaviour since the fall of the USSR but I can't say I've seen any evidence this promise was ever made, informally or not. Also if it were made it would only relate to the USSR, not the radically different situation after the fall.
 
Partnership for Peace was probably designed to try and supplant NATO with a pan-European but probably the distractions of other conflicts (Gulf 1, Yugoslavia) meant it was sidelined or overlooked as a means to head paranoia off at the pass.
 
Easy, right after the fall of the USSR all of Nato but say the US and one or two others say they cant aford to keep up there end. So they cut military spending yo next to nothing. Meanwhile The US and whomever is still spending what the agreement calls for gets tired of paying there mony yo protect other folks that wont spend anything on pretecting themselves, and ”poof” no more NATO.
If you want to Survive with no expansion then have the. US not drop out but just cut back yo mactch thecspending lvl of the rest of NATO and you have an organization that is so weak it is useless and it will not let new members in because they cant prtect the members they have.
 
Have Clinton enthusiastically favor it publicly in 1993. Since Republicans have been playing the "let's be opposites" game tearing down Democratic Presidents since Newt Gingrich's Contract with America ever since their 1994 midterm campaign, they'd stop the initiative cold for the rest of his term. While liberal democratic hawks might continue to like the idea in principle, it still would never have the priority of health care, and wouldn't come up again whenever the next Democratic trifecta takes power especially as the Democrats would expect their trifecta would be gone after the first post-Presidential midterm.

In OTL, NATO expansion was part of Contract with America. It did have its bipartisan supporters, but Clinton was at first reluctant and tried to push it off using Partnership for Peace as a less binding and (it hoped) less offensive substitute. But with the GOP takeover of Congress, and Russian sentiment turning ugly anyway [signs counted toward this included Zhirinovsky's vote there and then the Chechen War), but Russia still looking weak, and the Yugoslavia crack-up telling the US foreign policy elite that Europe was not done with wars and not capable of squelching wars on its own, Clinton gave up resisting the idea, as part of his late first-term triangulation policies.
 
This has been brought up several times, mostly to justify Russian behaviour since the fall of the USSR but I can't say I've seen any evidence this promise was ever made, informally or not. Also if it were made it would only relate to the USSR, not the radically different situation after the fall.
James Baker had suggested offering that to Bush, who quickly shot it down. Gorbachev thought this was agreed upon because of a mistranslation.
 
James Baker had suggested offering that to Bush, who quickly shot it down. Gorbachev thought this was agreed upon because of a mistranslation.
Thanks for the clarification
Have Clinton enthusiastically favor it publicly in 1993. Since Republicans have been playing the "let's be opposites" game tearing down Democratic Presidents since Newt Gingrich's Contract with America ever since their 1994 midterm campaign, they'd stop the initiative cold for the rest of his term. While liberal democratic hawks might continue to like the idea in principle, it still would never have the priority of health care, and wouldn't come up again whenever the next Democratic trifecta takes power especially as the Democrats would expect their trifecta would be gone after the first post-Presidential midterm.
How far would this realistically push it back? I don’t know if bush would follow the same policies of the congressional republicans and later down the road you will eventually get to Obama as well.
 
The problem with NATO not expanding after the Cold War is that the consequences of a power vacuum in central/eastern Europe is vastly more dangerous than the Pre-2008 world OTL. Poland was threatening to get nukes, Hungary and Romania were still arguing over Transylvania and the Balts were terrified of being subsumed into Russia again and wondering what to do with their Russian minorities.

If NATO is ruled out, all these places will know they have no insurance against a renewed Russia that had occupied them for either half a century in the case of Czechoslovakia/Hungary/Romania/Bulgaria or centuries period as with Poland and the Balts. In such a case, it's every man for himself - the Poles would eat grass to get nukes to stop Russia, the Balts will make OTL's language measures look like a hippie commune, and the same corrosive governance that Slovakia had which stopped its initial NATO bid will expand to the entirety of the Balkans. All this will, ironically, make Russia less safe since they've massively increased the geopolitical tripwires across the continent.

Your only chance might be to make Partnership for Peace take over, but that was all dependent on Russia upholding her end of the bargain to create western institutions and for Eastern Europe to feel they didn't need insurances. Russia by 1996 had been involved in multiple military operations of dubious nature (Transnistira, Chechnya), was universally considered to have rigged the vote to stop an even more authoritarian candidate taking over, and was already swept in a wave of Brezhnev nostalgia - Eastern Europe was not going to sign up for this when a tried and tested solution in NATO already existed. Incidentally NATO expansion was only a blip in West-Russia relations - Yugoslavia was a bigger flashpoint since it was the West interfering in Orthodox Slavic territory that Russia thought so important that WW1 began over it. Even then Russia's hatred of NATO wasn't a big deal until after the Orange Revolution and the thought of an Eastern Slavic country joining NATO (since now Ukraine had an openly Pro-NATO government albeit an Anti-NATO populace) - Putin barely reacted to the Baltic ascension because the Balts were non-Slavic and non-Orthodox, even less than Poles, so Russians basically accepted that they weren't part of their world in a way they wouldn't say in regards to Belarus or Ukraine. Hell I've even seen some analysts say he was more pissed that Romania and Bulgaria joined NATO both due to their being on the Black Sea but also the sense that these were peoples united to Russians in the Orthodox faith (and broader Slavic identity with regards to Bulgaria).
 
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How far would this realistically push it back? I don’t know if bush would follow the same policies of the congressional republicans
True. But, barring butterflies, his very early administration focus will be China, and missile defense, and then it will be War on Terror and overthrowing Middle East rogue states. Although he and Cheney did continue the NATO expansion they inherited and did press on with more NATO expansion later, and did take geopolitical advantage of the 'color revolutions' that happened in former Soviet states in Ukraine, Caucasus, and Central Asia, early on Bush was also looking into Putin's eyes and seeing a good soul, and talking way nicer to him than with Germany and France despite disagreement over Iraq policy.
d later down the road you will eventually get to Obama as well.
If it hadn't happened under Bush, there's hardly be appetite by Obama's time. His concerns would be War on Terror, but getting out of Iraq specifically, and dealing with the Great Recession and long sought domestic reforms including Obamacare.
 
Poland was threatening to get nukes,
I lived through this time, was studying international relations, including a lot of Central and Eastern Europe transition stuff. Never heard a peep about this outside the realm of pure theory. Cite? Contemporary news? Statements by Polish government officials?

Hungary and Romania were still arguing over Transylvania
They did and they still do about Trianon, and with Yugoslavia gone and looking at a map it's always an obvious latent risk. It's an obvious handy rationalization if you want to expand NATO anyway, but expansion opponents also used it as a rationale to not expand (ie, to no embolden Hungary, or import the rivalry into the alliance).
 
I lived through this time, was studying international relations, including a lot of Central and Eastern Europe transition stuff. Never heard a peep about this outside the realm of pure theory. Cite? Contemporary news? Statements by Polish government officials?


They did and they still do about Trianon, and with Yugoslavia gone and looking at a map it's always an obvious latent risk. It's an obvious handy rationalization if you want to expand NATO anyway, but expansion opponents also used it as a rationale to not expand (ie, to no embolden Hungary, or import the rivalry into the alliance).

Poland's nuclear threat (they never did so publicly of course) is mentioned in "Not One Inch: America, Russia, and The Making of the Post-Cold War Stalemate" by M.E Sarotte
 
Prevent Putin's (relatively) bloodless coup against Yeltsin, because that's exactly what it was, and the looting of Russia's resources by the oligarchs, both domestic and foreign. If this is possible, then a more open, democratic-ish Russia might be less demanding of a return to its "glorious past".
Prevent the extremely brutal wars that resulted from the break up of Yugoslavia and NATO wouldn't be forced to eventually intervene.
 
Only way I see is for Russia to collapse even more after the fall of the USSR,
The nation's joined NATO because they have a history if Russia invading, oppressing and genociding them. No Russia, no fear of invasion.
 
Prevent Putin's (relatively) bloodless coup against Yeltsin, because that's exactly what it was, and the looting of Russia's resources by the oligarchs, both domestic and foreign. If this is possible, then a more open, democratic-ish Russia might be less demanding of a return to its "glorious past".
Prevent the extremely brutal wars that resulted from the break up of Yugoslavia and NATO wouldn't be forced to eventually intervene.
Except, Transnitria and Chechenya didn't start during Putin.
 
Maybe get a member or three to withdraw in the early '90s? Most members of NATO were (and are) only still in the treaty out of inertia not because membership was (or is) of a vital interest. If someone were to question the validity of NATO in, say, 1994, there would likely be no expansion of the alliance later on as it would be defunct.
 
Ok, as a Russian, I have some thoughts on it:
1) The first thing is to have the USSR intact and managing to bargain the "Finlandization" of Eastern (or the entire) Europe from the West. It was already mentioned here, that even if the so-called "Informal Bush senior promise" had existed, it was completely dead after the Union's dissolution (it's a fun thing that the end of the Cold War was declared by Bush senior and Gorby during the Malta summit, while nowadays everyone think that it came onlly after the complete Soviet collapse in 1991). So, having a stronger Moscow (which still maintains reasonable level of relations with the West, ofc) would be really helpful. The propositions to Finlandize Eastern or the entire Europe were floating around since late Cold War and seemed to be the logical end game of the Soviet detente started during the Brezhnev Era (although, the first such proposals from Moscow is the Stalin's Note on Germany). In order to achieve that, you may play with some PoDs in around 60s-80s, which would make the US weaker/less hawkish (thus more willing to make a deal with the Kremlin) and/or making the USSR stronger, with earlier and more sensible reforms (while keeping at least Brezhnev pre-Afghan level of US-USSR tensions).

2) The second thing is to make the US more intrested in Russia during the 90s. The thing is that the first foreign minister of Russian Federation, Andrey Kozyrev, really hoped that the US would provide a "Second Marshall plan" for Russia, thus providing many concessions in order to boost the image of Russia in the West (for example, making the process of Russian troops withdrowal from Baltics b5 years faster than initially planned- setting up 1993 as the year for all Russian military to witdraw instead of 1998). For that we could use the Ross Perot victory in 1992 (the guy was very Anti-Chinese and wante to make Russia into "Citael of democracy"). And 1993 WTC bombing succeeding would be a good PoD too- with War on Terror strating 8 years earlier, the US would be too occupied with islamic terrorists to intervene in Yugoslavia (and the Bosniaks wouldn't receive the US backing dur to the earlier rise of islamophobia). The First Chechen War is easier to win for Russia with better PR (while the Chechen leadership during the First War, unlike the Second, used to be secular nationalists, it's easy for propaganda to play on the islamophobic themes). So, with Muslims being the "common enemy" for both Americans and Russians during the 90s, we may see much less strains in US-RF relations.

3) Chernomyrdin succeeding Yeltsin. Basically, Viktor Chernomyrdin was a long-serving premier, who'd initially been chosen as a compromise candidate to replace Gaidar in 1992. Basically, I came up with that idea due to the Gore-Chernomyrdin comission. Let's say that in US Gore is also elected in 2000 and the two develop an early Putin-Bush junior kind of relations with each other. Under Chernomyrdin, Russia may become a something like "Giant Ukraine"- a country run by Oligarchs without a stongman-ish leader like Putin. So, there is no "restoration of pride" in early 2000s Russia, the aftershocks of the 90s (gangs) last a bit longer- but Russia still looks as humilated as during the 90s, so there is less reasons for the Eastern Europeans to distrust her (although their fears of Russia have roots deep in history, so they would likely call for further "containment" no matter what).

4) Harliner China? Basically, with no Deng and his "Reforms and opening up", China would likely stay Maoist in some form (Guodeng or Gang of 4). So, USSR/Russia in such timeline may receive more Western investment and, with the PRC becoming the leader of the communist world after the USSR dissolves/reforms, we may see Western attention being directed towards China- especially if the continued backing of the Naxalites, Shining Path and Filipino communist guerillas would result in actual Civil Wars. So, with China being a common enemy for Washington and Moscow, the NATO expansion becomes less likely with Finlandization being more seriously considered compared to OTL.

5) EU-US split. The general trope here is to have a Sino-Soviet style split occur in the West during or after the Cold War. There may be some PoDs for it- US doing some very disgracing moves in foreign (using nukes in Vietnam or actively backing far-right regimes in Southern Europe) or internal policy (electiong some very far-right far-left, or isolationist president), UK never joining the EU or EU focusing on turning itself into a full-blown federation. Overall, the stablishment of a Euro military pact as an alternative to NATO is likely in such case and that pact may establish good relations or even outright incorporate Russia/moderate or reformed USSR. So, the Moscow here would be able to realize the strategy of "Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok" and becoming a counterbalance to the American influence.

P.S. Just a standalone bonus PoD: Remove the West German recognition of the Oder-Neisse line (No Brandt chancellorship basically) and it would cause a lot of problems for NATO expansion into Eastern Europe with chief continental European ally of US (FRG) having a major dispute with chief NATO aspirant- Poland.
 
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