Updated: 27-Oct-2000 Ministerial Communiqus

by the North
Meeting in

21 Aug. 1991 (1)

The Situation in the Soviet Union

  1. We, the Foreign Ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have, met in extraordinary session today to discuss the grave developments in the Soviet Union.

    We are encouraged and heartened by the reports from the Soviet Union that are reaching us as we are assembled. We will follow the unfolding of events with the closest attention and highest hopes. We reaffirm our position of principle in respect of the attempted coup d'tat as set out in this Statement.

    We strongly condemn the unconstitutional removal of President Gobarchev, the attempted coup d'tat, and the use of violence to intimidate members of the reform movement and to suppress democratic institutions. We deeply deplore the loss of life that occurred last night.

  2. In the space of only a few short years, Europe has been transformed. The historic events reflected in the Charter of Paris heralded a new era of European democracy, peace and unity based on the rule of law. The process of transformation, so clearly threatened by those who have tried to seize power in Moscow, must continue to move forward.

  3. We call for immediate restoration of President Gorbachev to his rightful office and for the renewal of the process of political and economic reform in the Soviet Union. We support the democratically elected leaders in the Soviet Union and their opposition to the unconstitutional seizure of power. We demand that Boris Yeltsin, the democratically elected President of Russia, and other democratically elected leaders, be able to exercise their legitimate functions. We attach the utmost importance to the safety and liberty of the members of the reform movement and others who may be opposed to recent events, and hold the authorities responsible for their personal well-being. We oppose the use of force throughout the Soviet Union and particularly against the governments of the Soviet Republics. The Allies are deeply concerned with the continuing reports of repression and violence by the military in the Baltic states. We urgently appeal to those responsible in refrain from all threat or use of force against the democratically elected governments and representatives of the Baltic peoples and elsewhere.

  4. This attempted removal of President Gorbachev, in direct contravention of the rule of law, raises serious questions about the future of the Soviet Union, in relations with Europe and with the world at large. The subordination of the military authorities to the democratic process is a point of particular concern to us in this context. We insist that the Soviet Union abide by all its international commitments and treaties, including those concerning troop withdrawals and disarmament. The suspension of civil liberties, especially the freedom of assembly and expression, are incompatible with the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter for a New Europe. The democratic principles and human rights enshrined in these documents must be observed. To do otherwise would be a grave setback which could seriously undermine the emerging peaceful order in Europe. We are determined not to do anything which could imply the conferral of any legitimacy on those responsible for the unconstitutional acts in the Soviet Union. We will, therefore, refrain from contacts with them at the political level. We demand that representatives of states that have signed the Paris Charter are enabled to see and speak to the elected President of the Soviet Union, who has also signed the Paris Charter.

  5. In these circumstances, we believe that until constitutional order and democratic freedoms have been restored in the Soviet Union, our participation in the Moscow meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension cannot be justified and that that meeting should be postponed. We believe that an emergency meeting of CSCE senior level officials should be called as soon as possible to discuss the events in the Soviet Union. We are also considering whether other actions should be taken within the CSCE framework in respect of events in the Soviet Union.

  6. Last June in Copenhagen, we stated that the consolidation and preservation throughout the continent of democratic societies and their freedom from any form of coercion or intimidation are of direct and material concern to us. Noting the enhanced concern of Central and Eastern European states, we reiterate our conviction that our own security is inseparably linked to that of all other sates in Europe, particularly to that of the emerging democracies. We expect the Soviet Union to respect the integrity and security of all states in Europe. As a token of solidarity with the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe, we will develop ways of further strengthening our contribution toward the political and economic reform process within these countries. Our diplomatic liaison arrangements, with the Central and Eastern European democracies now take on added significance. We strongly support the resolution by dialogue and peaceful means of all conflicts, both internal and international, that could threaten European security. In this respect, we also urge all parties to exercise the utmost restraint in the current crisis in Yugoslavia. The Allies express their support for efforts by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Community to resolve this crisis.

  7. At our meeting in London and Copenhagen, we offered a new constructive partnership with the Soviet Union, as with the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The illegitimate actions currently being taken in the Soviet Union are bound to have a negative effect on the Alliance's relationship with that country. Liaison will remain as a channel of communication to the Soviet Union, bit we must re-examine, as a matter of urgency, other liaison activities. We have agreed to suspend our programme of official exchange with the Soviet Union pending a clarification of the situation in that country. We underline that the Soviet Union can only count on further Western assistance if it continues to move toward genuine democracy and market reform and returns to constitutional government. Allied governments will act individually and jointly in this light.

  8. The Atlantic Alliance remains determined to help build a Europe whole and free with all European states, including the Soviet Union. To this end, normal relations can only be restored if the Soviet Union returns to constitutionality and to the strict observance of all principles of the Charter of Paris.


  1. On 23 August 1991 the Council issued the following statement on the suspension of measures concerning the Soviet Union. "Today the Council decided that in the light if the reinstatement of President Gorbachev and the restoration of constitutional order in the Soviet Union, the measures taken by the Council of Foreign Ministers on 21 August have ceased to operate, as the conditions attached to them no longer prevail."

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