Revisiting the “Broken Promise” Controversy: The 1989-90 Origin of Post-Cold War NATO Expansion, Thirty Years On

William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305
  • Mary Sarotte

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Abstract:  As Russian President Vladimir Putin pursues a more assertive policy toward the West, one of his primary grievances is that NATO enlarged despite 1990 assurances to the contrary.  At the end of the Cold War, did Washington in fact promise Moscow that it would refrain from expanding NATO eastward?  Russia says yes; the US says no; what does the evidence say?  Professor Sarotte, a historian, has conducted archival research and interviews on this topic in the US, Russia, Germany, Britain, and France. In this lecture, she will draw on both her previous publications and on newer declassifications to re-examine this controversy and its legacy for NATO expansion – even as President Donald Trump raises the possibility of a NATO contraction through US withdrawal.


Speaker's Biography:  Mary Elise Sarotte is the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Distinguished Professor of Historical Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC.  Her five books include The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall and 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe, both of which were named Financial Times Books of the Year, along with receiving other awards and commendations.  Sarotte earned her AB in History and Science at Harvard University and her PhD in History at Yale University.  After graduate school, she served as a White House Fellow and subsequently joined the faculty of the University of Cambridge.  Sarotte received tenure at Cambridge in 2004 and returned to the United States to teach at University of Southern California as the Dean's Professor of History before moving to Hopkins.  Sarotte is a former Humboldt Scholar, a former member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, a research associate of Harvard's Center for European Studies, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  She is currently writing a book on NATO expansion; it is based (among other sources) on formerly secret Defense Department, State Department, and White House documents which she has declassified though Freedom of Information appeals.