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China Falsely Blames U.S. on Eve of Russia’s Ukraine Invasion

Service members of the Ukrainian armed forces stand next to a tripod-mounted missile system outside Kharkiv on February 24, 2022. (Maksim Levin/Reuters)
Chinese state TV, “First Voice” program

Chinese state TV, “First Voice” program

“The United States has broken one of the most important geopolitical promises after the Cold War. … America made the promise to Russia against the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.”


On February 24, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin made the claim that he is seeking to “to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.” has previously debunked Russian propaganda efforts to falsely portray the Kyiv government as fascist. Ukraine, whose democratically elected President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish, has asked how he, or a country that “gave more than 8 million lives for the victory over Nazism,” could be Nazis?

Putin paved the way for his military attack by recognizing the Russian-occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine as independent states.

On the eve of war, China’s state-run CGTN's “First Voice,” which offers “a Chinese perspective on the latest global events,” weighed in on Russia’s drive to war.

The program called Putin’s decision to recognize the breakaway republics as Russia’s “strike back at the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)” and a means “to provide security for itself.”

No mention was made of Ukraine’s right to security as a sovereign nation that has faced Russian aggression for eight years.

“First Voice” then repeated this false claim about NATO, often cited by the Kremlin.

“The United States has broken one of the most important geopolitical promises after the Cold War. When the Soviet Union dissolved, and the Warsaw Pact collapsed in the late 20th century, America made the promise to Russia against the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.”

In fact, the United States never signed any treaty or memorandum promising it would not expand NATO.

As previously reported, Russia has repeatedly claimed that former Secretary of State James Baker, who served in the administration of George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1993, promised during a 1990 meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand “one inch to the East.”

But those discussions were actually about the status of German reunification. At the time, West Germany was part of NATO with a U.S. military presence. East Germany was in the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact alliance and hosted Soviet troops.

The issue at the time, which Putin and others misrepresent, was managing the integration of two states that belonged to separate military alliances.

The United States and the Soviet Union were hammering out whether non-German NATO forces would be stationed in the former East Germany prior to the withdrawal of Soviet troops still there.

The idea of Warsaw Pact countries ever joining NATO was purely hypothetical. Why? Because the Warsaw Pact, which included the Soviet Union and seven other Eastern Bloc countries, still existed at the time. As such, the idea of Warsaw Pact countries joining NATO made no sense and did not feature prominently in diplomatic documents.

Bush, his national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, and Baker all said the prospect of extending NATO membership to any Warsaw Pact country (apart from Germany) never came up during reunification talks with Moscow, Mark Kramer, director of the Project on Cold War Studies at Harvard University, wrote in 2009.

Kramer further noted the United States never pledged not to pursue NATO enlargement.

More importantly, Gorbachev himself confirmed that Baker’s comment that “NATO will not move one inch further East” was made in the context of German territory.

Former U.S. President George Bush (L) and then CPSU Central Committee General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Treaty on Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START) in the Kremlin on July 31, 1991.(Yuri Lizunov, Alexander Chumichev/ TASS)
Former U.S. President George Bush (L) and then CPSU Central Committee General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Treaty on Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START) in the Kremlin on July 31, 1991.(Yuri Lizunov, Alexander Chumichev/ TASS)

“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,” Gorbachev said during a 2014 interview with state-owned Russia Beyond the Headlines (now Russia Beyond).

Gorbachev explained:

“Not a single Eastern European country raised the issue, not even after the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist in 1991. Western leaders didn’t bring it up, either. Another issue we brought up was discussed: Making sure that NATO’s military structures would not advance, and that additional armed forces from the alliance would not be deployed on the territory of the then-GDR after German reunification. Baker’s statement, mentioned in your question, was made in that context.”

Next, “First Voice” referenced a 2015 speech by President Joe Biden (then vice president) to Ukraine’s parliament.

That speech was made in the context of Russia’s illegal 2014 annexation of Crimea and clandestine invasion of eastern Ukraine. Biden said, “The United States will continue to stand with Ukraine against Russian aggression.”

First Voice interpreted that vow to "stand with Ukraine" as an aggressive posture.

“If America could be in Russia's shoes, what would the U.S. do if the Russian president going to Canada saying that Russia will stand with the Canadians against the U.S. aggression? No country could tolerate the possibility of opening the door to the deployment of heavy weaponry, or even nuclear weapons, to their borders by an overpowering military competitor,” First Voice wrote.

That “First Voice” would raise the prospect of a nuclear-armed Ukraine is telling. Ukraine, in fact, gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for guarantees that Russia and others would respect its territorial integrity.

In December 1994, leaders from the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia met in Budapest, Hungary, to facilitate Ukraine's transition to becoming a non-nuclear-weapons state by agreeing to a number of security assurances. At the time, Ukraine had the world's third-largest nuclear stockpile.

Under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. agreed:

  • To respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.
  • To refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that weapons would never be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
  • To refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind.

Russia has systematically violated every point of that document.

Putin has launched a war against Ukraine and now warns of “consequences you have never seen” to any country that attempts to thwart Russian forces, which some analysts are interpreting as a threat to use nuclear weapons.

China also gave Ukraine security guarantees in 1994, after the signing of the Budapest Memorandum. In a statement published then by China’s state news agency Xinhua, the government said:

“In accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 984 and the Chinese government’s statement on providing security assurances to Ukraine on December 4, 1994, China pledges unconditionally not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear Ukraine, and under the conditions of Ukraine suffering an invasion using nuclear weapons or suffering the threat of this kind of invasion, to provide Ukraine with relevant security guarantees.”

Russia has also been accused of violating the 1975 Helsinki Accords, which recognized the inviolability of the post-World War II borders. And apart from Ukraine, Russia also occupies portions of Georgia and Moldova.

Meanwhile, China has regularly cited “the principle of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs” to shield authoritarian regimes from rights abuses against their own people.

In October 2011, China and Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution that condemned “the continued grave and systematic human rights violations and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities.”

China has consistently vetoed U.N. resolutions on Syria, including those seeking to punish the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people.

In February 2020, China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China had called for a “Syrian-led, Syrian-owned” approach, which he said proceeds from China’s “commitment to national sovereignty” and China’s commitment to “non-interference in internal affairs.”

Likewise, after Myanmar’s military overthrew the civilian government and began attacking its own people in February 2021, Beijing has repeatedly stressed that “no external force should interfere in Myanmar's internal problems.”