The story goes back more than three decades to the fall of the Berlin Wall and eventual reunification of Germany. At the time, the Soviet Union had some 380,000 troops in what was then the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany. Those forces were there as part of the treaty ending World War II, and the Soviets were concerned that removing them could end up threatening the USSR’s borders. The Russians have been invaded – at terrible cost – three times in a little more than a century.
So in the early 1990s, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev cut a deal. The Soviets agreed to withdraw troops from Eastern Europe as long as NATO didn’t fill the vacuum, or recruit members of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact. Baker promised Gorbachev that NATO would not move “one inch east.”