Second, NATO’s expansion antagonized Russia, which thought its goodwill in ending the Cold War had not been reciprocated. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov referred to this sentiment when he wrote that “various attempts are being made to contain Russia, including through the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in vio- lation of previous assurances given to Moscow.”3
What were these assurances? Russians, with some American support, insist that when the Cold War ended and they agreed to the reuni- fication of Germany within NATO, they received verbal assurances that NATO would not expand further. “Any extension of the zone of NATO is unacceptable,” Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev told Secretary of State James Baker in 1990. “I agree,” Baker replied.4 But there is some confusion about what the discussions actually meant, especially since positions changed over time. The Russians were furious they had been careless or, worse, misled. “The current collision between Russia and NATO could have been avoided if the Soviet leadership had at that time . . . codified [American and German] intentions not to expand NATO,” observed foreign affairs ana- lyst Alexei Pushkov. “The Russian leadership is saying that it will not be fooled again.”5
Brush up on just who the separatists in eastern Ukraine are, and what it is they're fighting for.