Clinton recalled conversations with Yeltsin about NATO expansion
The former US president then asked his Russian colleague whether he really admits the possibility that the United States will strike at Russia. Yeltsin answered in the negative
Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, 1997
Former US leader Bill Clinton (1993-2001; 42nd President of the United States) spoke in an interview with CNN about a conversation with his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin about NATO's eastward advance. He said he asked the Russian president if he really considered the possibility of the United States striking Russia.
“I asked him, 'Do you really think I'm going to use a base in Poland to bomb Russia?' He replied: “No, but many in Russia think so because their historical memory includes Hitler and Napoleon.”
Clinton acknowledged this, but noted that historical ideas about Russia, in turn, is associated with such rulers as Ivan the Terrible, Peter I and Catherine II, when the Russian state “controlled its neighbors.” However, the ex-president is convinced, “people no longer want to be controlled,” they want to choose their own path.
The former American leader does not believe that NATO expansion, which began during his presidency, can be blamed for the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine. He stressed that the US and NATO were not going to threaten Russia. Moreover, according to him, he offered Russia “not only a special partnership with NATO, but also the prospect of possible NATO membership.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that NATO countries have not kept promises not to expand “not one inch”; to the East. «I will repeat— deceived, and in popular language, they just threw it,— said, in particular, Putin in an address on February 24, the day the Russian military operation in Ukraine began. He recalled that in December 2021, Moscow once again tried to negotiate with the United States and its allies, but “all in vain.” The head of state called “further expansion of the infrastructure of the North Atlantic Alliance, the military development of the territories of Ukraine” unacceptable. “The problem is that in the territories adjacent to us, — I note that in our own historical territories, & mdash; a hostile “anti-Russia” is being created, which is placed under complete external control, is intensively settled by the armed forces of the NATO countries and is pumped up with the most modern weapons, — he said then.
The fact that Washington offered Yeltsin and Putin the possibility of Russia joining NATO, Clinton spoke back in the spring. He called untrue claims that the United States in any way tried to isolate Russia, showed disrespect or completely ignored it. At the same time, the former American leader agreed that the alliance really sought to expand eastward, despite Moscow's objections, calling NATO's actions at that time “correct and consistent decisions.”
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Clinton said that he met with Yeltsin 18 times, and with Putin— five. “This is only three less than all the meetings between the leaders of the USA and the USSR from 1943 to 1991. The notion that we have ignored, disrespected, or tried to isolate Russia is false,” — he noted.
In 2017, Putin, in an interview with American director Oliver Stone, said that it was he who suggested that Clinton think about Russia joining NATO.
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