This is a recurring disinformation narrative from pro-Kremlin media, claiming that the West promised ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev not to expand NATO to the East. Western top officials allegedly made this commitment at the time of the unification of the Germanies in late the 1980s -- the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union was nearing its breakup. NATO drawing closer to the Russian border means that the West deceived Russia and the entire world. In reality, there was no recorded or otherwise documented commitment from the West to Soviet or Russian leaders about the alleged non-expansion of NATO. Even Gorbachev himself denied this claim in an interview in 2014:
“The topic of ‘NATO expansion’ was not discussed at all, and it wasn’t brought up in those years. I say this with full responsibility. Not a single Eastern European country raised the issue, not even after the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist in 1991.”
After the Cold War, the alliance and Moscow established relations of mutual respect, which culminated in the signing of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation in 1997. This document, which is a reference point for any questions or misunderstandings from either side, contains the following provision:
"NATO will carry out its collective defense and other missions through interoperability, integration and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces on the territory of new members."
Thus, Russia’s claims of NATO’s alleged promise about non-expansion are unsubstantiated because this statement already mentions “new members”, to which Russia agreed. Furthermore, the phrase “rather than” implies a high degree of improbability rather than an unequivocal commitment. Russia voiced no objection to this wording, either. The international situation has changed since then, with Moscow behaving in an increasingly aggressive manner towards its immediate neighbours and explicitly threatening whom it used to call its Western partners, which forced NATO to revise its Russia policy. It was a justified move in order to prevent further Russian threats. The document also reads:
"The Act makes clear that Russia has no veto over alliance decisions and NATO retains the right to act independently when it so chooses".
It means, among other things, that NATO can deploy its forces, both permanently and temporarily, where it deems necessary, and not only on the territory of its member states. The United States operated a military base in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan from 2001 till 2014 to provide assistance to the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan. It also used it for the transport of NATO soldiers to and from Afghanistan. NATO troops were stationed there, which was not a violation to the Act. Many former Soviet satellite countries have joined NATO since 1997. Russia was vociferously opposing the admission of the Baltic nations to the alliance 2004, but its objections were of no value due to the two aforementioned provisions.
Read more similar disinformation narratives, claiming that NATO allegedly vowed not to expand eastwards and that the alliance poses a threat to Russia’s security.