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Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate

American Academy in Berlin | Mary Elise Sarotte

American Academy Lecture

Not one inch. With these words, the US Secretary of State James Baker proposed a hypothetical bargain to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev after the fall of the Berlin Wall: you let your part of Germany go, we move NATO not one inch eastward. Controversy erupted almost immediately over this 1990 exchange—but more important was the decade afterward, when the words took on new meaning.

With the Soviet Union’s collapse, in December 1991, and the start of Moscow’s bloody war in Chechnya, in 1994, the future of post-Cold War Europe began to look increasingly uncertain. Seeking to defend newly free democracies in both Europe and the post-Soviet space, Washington under President Bill Clinton decided that not one inch of European territory should be off limits to NATO. The alliance began enlarging to Central and Eastern Europe in 1999—the same year that the aging Russian president Boris Yeltsin abruptly resigned and handed power to his hand-picked successor:  Vladimir Putin. Mary Sarotte’s talk will investigate how tensions in the 1990s between Americans, Europeans, and Russians over NATO enlargement transformed geopolitics between the Cold War and the Covid epidemic—and set the stage for today’s conflict in Ukraine.

Mary Sarotte’s previous books include The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall, listed as a Best Book of 2014 by The Economist and the Financial Times, and 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe, a Financial Times Best Book of 2009.  A former member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, she is the Kravis Professor at Johns Hopkins University, a researcher at Harvard’s Center for European Studies, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  She earned her PhD in History at Yale and her AB at Harvard.  Writing in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Jürgen Osterhammel named the English version of Not One Inch a Best Book of 2022.


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American Academy in Berlin
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