Home » NATO’s 1999 Enlargement Sent ‘Clear Signal to Russia’ That Cold War Never Ended

NATO’s 1999 Enlargement Sent ‘Clear Signal to Russia’ That Cold War Never Ended

by Marko Florentino
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MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“




Sputnik International



MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“


Sputnik International



MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

why did nato expand, why is nato still around, why didn’t nato dissolve, who started nato expansion

why did nato expand, why is nato still around, why didn’t nato dissolve, who started nato expansion

March 12 marks the 25th anniversary of the beginning of NATO’s fateful expansion into Eastern Europe in 1999. Veteran Serbian-American historian Srdja Trifkovic told Sputnik how the ‘fateful error’ made a quarter century ago set the stage for the present crisis between Russia and the West.

The three-week period between March 12 and April 4 marks three important milestones for NATO:


On March 12, 1999, the alliance began its incorporation of Eastern European countries into the bloc, swallowing up the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.


On March 24, 1999, NATO kicked off a brutal 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.


On April 4, 1949, the bloc was founded.

The bloc’s enlargement has “been a good investment,” former president Bill Clinton, whose administration set a course for NATO expansion almost immediately after entering office, said to attendees of a NATO conference in Prague on Tuesday.

“It was a good, sensible risk and it has immensely strengthened NATO. And the motto of this conference is as true today as it was then, perhaps more true: you can’t ever take your security for granted. We know that we need more networks of cooperation,” Clinton said.

25 Years of Poking the Bear

“History will see the accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland as a key step towards a Europe cooperation and integration, towards a Europe without dividing lines,” former NATO secretary general Javier Solana said in 1999.

Twenty-five years on, Solana’s words sound like mockery, with Europe finding itself in the midst of its worst security and economic crisis since the Second World War, and the NATO-fueled proxy war against Russia in Ukraine threatening to turn the region, and perhaps the world, into a pile of smoldering ash.

The first Eastern European round of NATO expansion marked a “strategic shift” in US policy, with the Clinton administration sending “a clear signal…that they intended to use NATO as a means of projecting US power in Eastern Europe and extending it, even though the USSR,” the alliance’s raison d’etre, “had ceased to exist,” says Dr. Srdja Trifkovic.

“In other words, it was a decision that reflected the intention of the US government to treat NATO as a permanent feature, as a permanent factor of the international scene, and no longer as a ‘defensive’ alliance, which was created in 1949, theoretically at least, to defend Western Europe against possible Soviet aggression,” Trifkovic told Sputnik.

In strategic terms, the 1999 enlargement “represented a major shift” in the US’s grand strategy, and sent a “clear signal to Russia…which at the time was undergoing a period of extreme weakness under Boris Yeltsin, that the game is not over,” the observer added. “What seemed like the end of the Cold War was not the end of the Western alliance.”

Servicemen of the Alfa anti-terrorist unit in front of the Russian Parliament building. Moscow, October 1993 - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.10.2023

How Clinton Used Russia’s 1993 Crisis to Dupe Yeltsin on NATO’s Eastward March

“For the Russians, I think it also was a sobering moment when they realized that the promise made by James Baker, then US secretary of State, that there would be no enlargement, was no longer valid,” Trifkovic said, referring to Baker’s February 1990 remark to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move “one inch eastward” of Germany pending Soviet approval to have East Germany annexed by the Federal Republic.

In a twist of fate symbolizing the revamped NATO’s aggressive geopolitical course, the alliance kicked off a massive bombing campaign of Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999, less than two weeks after the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland’s accession to the bloc.

“No troops from those countries were used against Yugoslavia – only Hungarian territory for overflights by NATO aircraft. The main base of attack was Aviano in Italy,” Trifkovic recalled. “Nevertheless, the fact that NATO was beginning to encircle Serbia from all sides had a profound psychological effect.” Furthermore, “Vladimir Putin is on record saying that NATO action against Yugoslavia actually helped the Russians have a more clear, more sober assessment of Western intentions.”

The encirclement has continued ever since, with 13 additional members entering NATO in the 25 years since 1999, six of them neighbors of Serbia.

The settlement ruined by NATO bombs.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.03.2023

Ignoble Anvil: How US Lust for Power Pushed Yugoslavia to Depths of Hell
Ultimately, the Clinton administration’s decision to expand NATO was a strategic “fateful error,” ruining a fledgling relationship between Washington and Moscow, setting the stage for the Ukrainian crisis, and serving to bring Russia and China closer together than they’ve been since the 1950s.

George Kennan, “one of the architects of the US strategy in the Cold War…said when this wave of expansion occurred that it was the biggest mistake of US foreign policy in the post-Cold War period,” Trifkovic recalled. Kennan, “as a strategist of the highest order, was extremely skeptical about the wisdom of expanding NATO. Now, all these years later, we see that indeed, he was right,” the observer summed up.

NATO expansion - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.03.2024

75 Years of NATO Expansion in One Pic

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