Warsaw Pact – WorldAtlas
On May 14, 1955, the Soviet Union and the other Communist states of Eastern Europe came together to form the Warsaw Pact, a political and military alliance that would become the main rival of the Western military alliance known as the name of the North Atlantic Treaty. Organization (NATO). In fact, the basic idea of the Warsaw Pact was similar to that of NATO, as it involved the idea of collective security. Unlike NATO, however, the Warsaw Pact was under the firm control of its largest and most powerful member, the USSR. The Soviet Union controlled all facets of the military alliance until 1991, when the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist.
Formation of the Warsaw Pact
As the name suggests, the Warsaw Pact was established in Warsaw, the capital of Poland. It was actually called the Warsaw Treaty Organization, although it is commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, at least in the West. According to the introduction to the Warsaw Treaty, the military alliance was formed in response to the decision of the Western powers to allow West Germany to rearm, for the first time since World War II, and to include it in NATO. The Warsaw Pact was made up of 8 countries: the Soviet Union, Albania, Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. All of these countries were communist states.
As well as being a response to the possibility of a rearmed West Germany, the Warsaw Pact was also meant to be a counterweight to NATO. The idea was that the Communist military alliance could contain NATO and also ensure that the Communist bloc could negotiate with the West on an equal footing. Like NATO, the Warsaw Pact included a commitment by members to defend each other if one or more members were attacked.
The leaders of the Soviet Union also believed that the Warsaw Pact could help them contain the unrest in the countries of Eastern Europe. Indeed, the USSR used the Warsaw Pact to crush the uprisings in Hungary in 1956, in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and in Poland in 1981. This happened despite the pact stressing that its members should not interfere in it. each other’s internal affairs.
Structure of the Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Pact would have put in place mechanisms allowing collective decision-making. The real power in the Warsaw Pact, however, was in the hands of the Soviet Union. In fact, the Communist military alliance effectively placed all the military forces of its member countries under Soviet command. Other alliance members have been excluded from regional strategic and operational commands in peacetime. They also had no say in the use of nuclear weapons and did not occupy any of the key command positions. The only issue in which other members of the Warsaw Pact had a say was the conduct of joint maneuvers and military exercises.
There were both positive and negative aspects of Soviet rule over the Communist military alliance in terms of any possible armed conflict with the West. The positive aspect was that decisions in the Warsaw Pact could be taken more effectively than in NATO, where decisions must be taken collectively among its members. At the same time, however, without the contribution of the non-Soviet members of the Warsaw Pact, the implementation of the decisions would be much less effective.
The highest organizational body of the Warsaw Pact was the Political Advisory Committee. The Commander-in-Chief of the Joint Armed Forces reported directly to this committee and was responsible for overseeing the readiness of the alliance’s military forces. Not surprisingly, the Political Advisory Committee was subordinate to the USSR Defense Council. This Defense Council controlled the defense ministries of each Warsaw Pact country. These ministries of defense, in turn, coordinated all matters with the Soviet ministry of defense.
There was also a Committee of Defense Ministries which played an advisory role to the Political Advisory Committee. Another body, the Military Council, issued recommendations to the Commander-in-Chief. The Defense Ministries Committee and the Military Council both had representatives from non-Soviet members of the Warsaw Pact, but the Soviets were still preeminent and the Commander-in-Chief was still a Soviet general.
In many cases, non-Soviet members were not even aware of the alliance’s war plans, as these were all worked out in secret by the Soviet Union. In addition, representatives were sent to all non-Soviet members to monitor their armies. These representatives were all Soviet, as were members of their staffs. In fact, 70% of the personnel of the Warsaw Pact Joint Armed Forces were Soviet. At the same time, the Soviet Union, although itself a member of the pact, did not allow its own forces to be placed under the command of the organization.
Dissolution of the Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Pact remained intact until 1991, although Albania was expelled from the alliance in 1962, when its regime disagreed with the leadership of the USSR on issues relating to Communist ideology. In the 1980s, however, the Warsaw Pact began to crack with the rise of non-communist and pro-democracy movements in alliance member states. In addition, members of the military alliance suffered from economic hardship. In the late 1980s, political changes in most of the Warsaw Pact member states rendered the military alliance virtually ineffective.
The first country to withdraw from the communist alliance was East Germany. In September 1990, Communist East Germany ceased to exist, merging with West Germany, after the fall of the Berlin Wall a year earlier. After East Germany left the Warsaw Pact, the leaders of Czechoslovakia and Poland expressed their desire to leave the alliance. By October 1990, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland withdrew from all joint Warsaw Pact military exercises. In March 1991, the organization’s military alliance component was dissolved. Three months later, the last meeting of the Political Advisory Committee took place. It was just five months before the Soviet Union, the architect and dominant power of the Warsaw Pact, itself dissolved.