Warsaw Pact Research Paper

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The Warsaw Pact, officially known as the “Treaty of Friendship, Co-Operation, and Mutual Assistance” among the seven socialist states of post–World War II Europe (Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and the Soviet Union), was the Soviet Union’s most significant multinational military alliance from 1955 until its collapse in 1991.

As the Red Army (later called the Soviet Army) swept through the eastern part of Europe at the end of World War II, it incorporated more than a half million troops from countries in eastern Europe into its forces. By 1949, by which time the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States was already well established, the Soviets had concluded bilateral military alliances with each of these Eastern European countries, all of which were by then Communist. The alliances permitted 1 million Soviet troops to remain in the region and subordinated the armed forces of the satellite countries to Soviet military authorities. During the early 1950s the European allies of the United States, seeking to find a way to defend themselves against a possible Soviet attack, decided that they would have to rearm the recently defeated Germany, that is, the newly created Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). In 1954, after an effort to create a completely European military force failed, the United States joined fifteen other countries to create the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). To counter this alliance, on 1 May 1955, the Soviets created the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO), which is often referred to as the Warsaw Pact, transforming the formerly bilateral alliances into an international organization.

The members of the Warsaw Pact claimed that it was formed in the postwar spirit of creating effective international organizations. In fact, the Soviets made no effort to create a truly cooperative, multinational force. They dealt with their allies primarily in the old bilateral forms, thus inhibiting the possibility of the Eastern Europeans allying among themselves on sensitive issues. While the Soviets devised strategy and designated their own troops as the primary combat units, the Eastern European militaries managed the war games, mobilized forces, or acted as Soviet proxies in furnishing Third World countries with arms. The fundamental strategic plan of the Warsaw Pact, that is, of the Soviet Union, was to achieve a quick victory over NATO forces after any attack. In fact, documents recovered after the collapse of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) suggest that few people outside of a narrow elite were aware of the details of NATO’s defense in depth, rendering the Warsaw Pact’s strategic plan doubtful at best.

The most serious crises that the pact confronted were the Hungarian Revolution, the Prague Spring, and the Solidarity movement: in 1956, when a serious revolt broke out in Hungary, the Soviets, without consulting their allies, crushed it with 200,000 troops. In 1968, when the Czechoslovak government introduced reforms such as greater freedom of the press, the Soviets reacted by occupying Czechoslovakia with Warsaw Pact forces consisting of twenty three Soviet divisions supplemented by five Eastern European divisions and a small group from Bulgaria. This preponderance of Soviet forces clearly demonstrated the actual position of the Eastern European allies in the organization, as well as the coercive nature of Communist rule in general. In 1981, the Soviets were spared the difficult choice of whether to use WTO forces to invade Poland, where the Solidarity movement was challenging the government, when the Polish leadership itself imposed martial law. These three crises, especially the last two, led to increasing disillusionment among the Eastern European allies. The Romanians did not send any troops to help put down the Prague Spring in 1968 and shortly thereafter insisted that Soviet troops leave their country. Albania, which had already become inactive, completely withdrew in 1968 also. During the 1980s, meetings of the Political Consultative Committee, allegedly the highest organ of the WTO, often provided the increasingly restive Eastern European allies a forum for voicing their views.

In 1989 the sudden and unexpected collapse of Communism in all the Warsaw Pact countries except the Soviet Union quickly made the pact obsolete. When East Germany joined the Federal Republic of Germany, the futility of maintaining the WTO became manifest. On 1 July 1991, Vaclav Havel, president of Czechoslovakia, declared the Warsaw Treaty Organization dissolved. The fact that Havel was a former dissident lent a peculiar irony to the end of this not particularly effective alliance.


  1. Gati, C. (1990). The bloc that failed: Soviet-East European relations in transition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  2. Holden, G. (1989). The Warsaw Pact: Soviet security and bloc politics. London: Blackwell.
  3. Holloway, D., & Sharp, J. M. O. (Eds.). (1984). The Warsaw Pact: Alliance in transition? Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  4. The Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security. (2010). Retrieved July 7, 2014, from http://www.php.isn.ethz.ch/

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