Warsaw Pact

Dafato Team | May 25, 2022

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The Warsaw Pact of 1955, also called Warsaw Treaty (Russian: Варшавский договор?, transliterated: Varšavskij dogovor) and officially Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (Russian: Договор о дружбе, сотрудничестве и взаимной помощи? transliterated: Dogovor o družbe, sotrudničestve i vzaimnoj pomošči), was a military alliance among the socialist states of the Eastern Bloc that arose as a reaction to the rearmament and entry into NATO of the Federal Republic of Germany in May of that year.

For thirty-six years, NATO and the Warsaw Pact never directly clashed in Europe: the U.S. and the USSR, together with their respective allies, implemented strategic policies aimed at containing the adversary on European soil, while they worked and fought for influence on the international stage, participating in conflicts such as the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Dirty War, the Cambodian-Vietnamese War and other conflicts.

Tensions between West and East over European security

After the 1945 Potsdam Conference, the territory of defeated Nazi Germany was divided west of the Oder-Neisse line into four occupation zones administered by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and France.

In April 1949, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands and Portugal, together with the United Kingdom and the U.S., signed the North Atlantic Treaty, also known as the Atlantic Pact, in Washington, thus creating NATO, with the aim of establishing a defensive military alliance and preventing the formation of militarisms of a nationalist nature.

In May 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany arose over the western area of Germany, followed soon after by the German Democratic Republic in the Soviet-occupied area to the east.

On March 20, 1952, talks on possible German reunification, initiated as a result of the "Stalin Note," ended after Western representatives insisted on a non-neutral united Germany free to join the European Defense Community (EDC) and rearm.

During the Berlin Conference held in January and February 1954, Soviet Foreign Minister Vjačeslav Molotov presented some proposals for possible German reunification and elections for a pan-German government, on condition of the withdrawal of the armies of the four occupying powers and Germany's neutrality, but these were rejected by Ministers John Foster Dulles (US), Anthony Eden (UK) and Georges Bidault (France). Later, Dulles met in Paris with Eden, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French Chancellor Robert Schuman, urging the Allies to avoid discussions with the Soviets and to insist on the CED.

According to U.S. historian John Lewis Gaddis, Western countries were inclined to explore the USSR's offer. Historian Rolf Steininger said that Adenauer's belief that "neutralization means Sovietization" had been the main factor in the rejection of Soviet proposals and the West German chancellor feared that reunification would lead to the end of his Christian Democratic Union of Germany's (CDU) dominance in the Bundestag.

Molotov, fearing that the CED would turn against the USSR in the future and "seeking to prevent the formation of groups of European states directed against other European states, proposed a General European Treaty on Collective Security in Europe "open to all European states without regard to their social systems," implying the unification of Germany and the futility of the CED. However, Eden, Dulles and Bidault rejected the proposal.

A month later, the European Treaty was rejected not only by supporters of the CED, but also by Western opponents of the CED (such as French leader Gaston Palewski), considering it "unacceptable in its current form because it excludes the U.S. from participation in the collective security system in Europe." The Soviets then proposed to the governments of the U.S., U.K. and France to accept U.S. participation in the proposed General European Agreement Considering also the fact that the Western powers considered the Soviet offer as "directed against the North Atlantic Pact and favorable to its liquidation," The Soviets declared their "readiness to examine the question of the participation of the USSR in the North Atlantic Bloc together with the other interested parties," specifying that "the admission of the U.S. into the General European Agreement would not affect the decision of the three Western powers for the admission of the USSR into the North Atlantic Pact."

Any Soviet proposal, including NATO membership, was immediately rejected by Western governments. Emblematic was the position of NATO Secretary General Hastings Lionel Ismay, NATO's secretary-general and a fervent supporter of its expansion, who opposed the Soviet application to join the Atlantic Pact, likening it to "the request of an unrepentant thief to join the police force."

In April 1954 Konrad Adenauer made his first visit to the United States to meet with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Vice President Richard Nixon and Foreign Secretary Dulles. Ratification of the European Defense Committee was postponed, but the U.S. declared that it would become part of NATO.

Meanwhile, the French still had fresh memories of the Nazi occupation and continued to fear German rearmament. On August 30, 1954, the National Assembly rejected the CED project, thus decreeing its failure and hindering the United States from associating the German armed forces with the West. The U.S. State Department began devising alternative plans: Germany would have to be invited to join NATO, otherwise, in case of obstructionism by the French, different strategies would be implemented to override the French veto and rearm Germany outside NATO.

On October 23, 1954, nine years after the end of World War II in Europe, the Federal Republic of Germany's entry into NATO was officially announced. In November 1954, the Soviet Union called for the creation of a new European Security Treaty as a last-ditch attempt to prevent the emergence of a militarized and potentially hostile West Germany, but it was unsuccessful.


On May 9, 1955, the Federal Republic of Germany joined NATO, and this event was described as "a decisive turning point in the history of our continent" by Norwegian Foreign Minister Halvard Lange. The possibility of a new rearmed Germany generated fear in the leaderships of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, the German Democratic Republic, and the Polish People's Republic: the three states strongly opposed the re-militarization of West Germany and sought to enter into a mutual defense pact. The leaders of the Soviet Union, like many other Western and Eastern European countries, feared the return of German military power and thus a direct threat similar to that posed by the Germans just before World War II, the memory of which was still fresh in the memories of the Soviets and Eastern Europeans. Since the USSR already had bilateral agreements with satellite states, the need for a pact was long considered unnecessary.

On May 14, 1955, the Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany, Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia signed the "Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance," later known as the Warsaw Pact, in Warsaw. The preamble to the treaty stated:

The eight member countries of the Warsaw Pact committed themselves to mutual defense in the event of an attack on a member state. Formally, relations among the treaty signatories were based on non-intervention in the internal affairs of the member states, respect for national sovereignty and political independence (agreements that were never respected by the USSR). The Political Advisory Committee (Russian: Политический консультативный комитет, ПКК?, transliterated: Političeskij konsul'tativnyj komitet, PKK), formed by delegates from each member country, was established as a monitoring body.

The treaty, which consisted of 11 articles and was drafted in Russian, Polish, Czech and German, came into effect as of June 4, 1955, when all member countries deposited with the Polish government their certificates of membership in the organization. Despite being a full member, Albania did not participate in Covenant sessions.

The treaty was to be renewed every twenty years, while for contracting states that, within one year before the set expiration date, did not submit to the Government of the People's Republic of Poland a declaration of renunciation of the treaty, it was to remain in force for the next ten years. The Warsaw Pact was not to be dissolved until a common European Treaty on Collective Security was ratified.

The USSR later allowed the German Democratic Republic to arm itself, and the Nationale Volksarmee was created as the East German Armed Forces Corps to counter West German rearmament.

Between January 27 and 28, 1956, the PKK met for the first time, and on that occasion the Warsaw Pact states put forward various proposals, including replacing the existing military groups in Europe with a collective security system, establishing military limitation zones and arms control.

In the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union had preeminence both administratively and in decision-making. From the point of view of the chain of command, the military structure of the alliance was headed by the Supreme Commander of the Warsaw Pact, who was responsible for organizing, training, and deploying the forces at his disposal and who in the event of war would operationally direct the troops. Throughout the alliance period, the supreme commander was always a senior Soviet officer; the first supreme commander of the Pact was Marshal Ivan Konev, one of the most famous and prestigious Soviet officers of World War II. The supreme commander's main aide was the Warsaw Pact Chief of Staff, always chosen from among Soviet senior officers.

Cold War

In the fall of 1957, an anti-Soviet insurgency broke out in the People's Republic of Hungary, and Prime Minister Imre Nagy announced the country's exit from the Warsaw Pact, the expulsion of Soviet troops, and the establishment of a multiparty regime. Fearing the spread of anti-Soviet sentiments in the Eastern Bloc and its crumbling, following Radio Free Europe's announcement of possible U.S. military intervention. The USSR decided to invade Hungary, depose Nagy's government and suppress the uprising In the clashes, about 2,700 Hungarians, pro- and anti-revolution, and 720 Soviet soldiers died.

In 1958, the Warsaw Pact Political Committee adopted a declaration in Moscow proposing the signing of a nonaggression pact with NATO countries.

In 1960, the Warsaw Pact issued a declaration in which the member states approved the Soviet government's decision to unilaterally abandon nuclear testing, on the condition that the Western powers do likewise, and called for the creation of favorable conditions for the drafting of a treaty to end nuclear weapons testing.

In July 1963, the Mongolian People's Republic applied to join the Warsaw Pact under Article 9 of the treaty, but due to the emergence of the Sino-Soviet crisis, Mongolia remained an observer member.

In 1965, the Covenant Political Committee met in Warsaw to discuss plans regarding the creation of multilateral nuclear forces by NATO and considered protective measures should such plans be implemented.

During the PKK meeting in Bucharest between July 4 and 6, 1966, the Declaration on Strengthening Peace and Security in Europe (Russian: Декларация об укреплении мира и безопасности в Европе?, transliterated: Deklaracija ob ukreplenii mira i bezopasnosti v Evrope) was adopted. The program present in the declaration included, in particular, the development of good neighborly relations among all European states on the basis of the principles of peaceful coexistence among states with different social systems, partial measures for military détente in Europe, countering the presence of nuclear weapons in West Germany, and the recognition of truly existing borders in Europe. The Warsaw Pact also proposed the convening of a pan-European conference on security issues in Europe and pan-European cooperation. Meanwhile, in 1966 the Soviet government entered into an agreement to station its troops on Mongolian territory.

Between March 6 and 7, 1968 in Sofia, the PKK discussed regarding nuclear nonproliferation and the Vietnam War, condemning the U.S. military intervention and renewing the Warsaw Pact's support for the liberation struggle led by the communist Viet Cong and the Vietnam People's Army.

The only joint, multinational operation by the Socialist armed forces was Operation Dunaj, or the Warsaw Pact's invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 to stop the Prague Spring and the reform process of the first secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party Alexander Dubček. All member countries of the Pact took part in the invasion, with the exception of the Socialist Republic of Romania and the People's Republic of Albania, while the German Democratic Republic provided minimal support. The Soviet invasion clearly demonstrated the policy that governed the Pact, namely the Brežnev Doctrine, that the possible presence of forces hostile to socialism that could divert the development of socialist countries toward capitalism was a common problem for all socialist states. After the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Albania formally withdrew from the Pact, although it had ceased to actively support it since 1961, at the same time drawing closer to China.

On March 17, 1969, the PKK met in Budapest: in addition to considering issues related to strengthening and improving the Warsaw Pact's military organization, great attention was paid to European security issues and an appeal was made to all European countries to prepare and hold a pan-European meeting, with the aim of finding a solution to the division of Europe, the splitting of armies and to create a strong collective security system.

In the 1970s, the Warsaw Pact was mainly limited to military exercises and focused in particular on constant coordination between the intelligence services of the member countries: in 1977, the treaty on the establishment of the "Combined Enemy Data Calculation System" SOUD (Russian: Система объединённого учёта даннных о противнике? transliterated: System ob "edinënnogo učëta dannych o protivnike) for signal intelligence. SOUD was implemented in 1979 on the eve of the 1980 Moscow Olympics and included the electronic and space reconnaissance assets of Vietnam, Mongolia and Cuba as well.

1980s and dissolution

After the election of Ronald Reagan as president of the United States of America in 1981, tensions with the Eastern Bloc countries increased, particularly after the installation of new missiles in Western Europe and the rekindling of the nuclear arms race. In 1985, the pact was renewed for another 20 years.

The election in 1985 of Mikhail Gorbačëv as General Secretary of the PCUS and the liberalization policies (perestroika and glasnost') ignited nationalist sentiments and caused instability in the socialist regimes of Eastern Europe. In December 1988, Mikhail Gorbačëv, leader of the Soviet Union, announced the so-called Sinatra Doctrine, which sanctioned the abandonment of the Brezhnev Doctrine and freedom of choice for Eastern Bloc nations. When it became clear that the Soviet Union would not stand in the way of any attempt at independence and thus would not use armed intervention to control the Warsaw Pact nations, a series of rapid socio-political changes began with the revolutions of 1989: the governments of Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia were among the first to fall. In the same year, the collapse of the Berlin Wall occurred. On Oct. 3, 1990, the German Democratic Republic was dissolved and its territories annexed to West Germany (or the Federal Republic of Germany), thus sanctioning its exit from the Pact and the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance and entry into NATO and the European Economic Community.

In January 1990 the NATO and Warsaw Pact leadership met together for the first time at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, meeting later to discuss airspace and possible cooperation. In the same year, a possible reform of the Warsaw Pact and its role in Eastern Europe was discussed in Moscow. In the same year, German reunification took place, with a united Germany being able to officially join NATO after lengthy negotiations with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

With the Warsaw Pact still in force, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary participated in the Gulf War alongside the U.S. coalition with Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

The new Eastern European governments were no longer supporters of the Pact. Following the military crackdown in Lithuania in January 1991, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary announced, through the spokesman for Czechoslovak President Václav Havel, their intention to leave the Warsaw Pact by July 1. On February 1, Bulgarian President Želju Želev also announced his intention to leave the Pact. On Feb. 25 in Budapest, the foreign and defense ministers of the six countries (USSR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary) remaining in the organization decided to dissolve the Unified High Command and all military bodies dependent on the Pact by March 31. The ministers also signed a six-page document annulling all treaties of mutual assistance in case of aggression, On July 1, 1991, the official protocol for the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact was signed in Prague, ending 36 years of military alliance with the USSR. In the following months the process began that would lead to the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991.

After 1991

Between the 1990s and 2000s, most of the former Warsaw Pact members joined NATO and the European Union.

Since 1994, member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States have joined the NATO-sponsored Partnership for Peace, while only two former members have joined the Membership Action Plan.

The Warsaw Pact established an alliance of a defensive nature between the contracting parties: acting in accordance with the United Nations Charter, members of the alliance promised to defend each other in the event of aggression, to consult on international issues of common concern, to act in accordance with the principle of non-interference and national sovereignty, and to cooperate in international missions together with other states interested in peacekeeping and the reduction of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction. The covenant countries also had to pledge not to participate in coalitions or enter into agreements whose purposes were contrary to those stated in the covenant.

Тhe adhering nations all contributed significant contingents of troops and equipment; armament in large part was provided by the Soviet Union, and the armies carried out regular joint exercises to improve cohesion and cooperation. The main military strength was the Soviet Army, which was deployed in all the Pact countries, particularly in the German Democratic Republic where the Soviet Forces Group in Germany (GSVG) consisted of the Red Army's best prepared and most modern formations and was trained to carry out rapid offensive maneuvers with armored vehicles in the event of a possible armed conflict with NATO. In the 1970s and 1980s, the GSVG had nearly 8,000 state-of-the-art tanks including T-64s, T-72s and T-80s.

Between 1980 and 1984, the Warsaw Pact military forces reached their greatest numerical and organizational power by constituting a war complex that was in appearance threatening and quantitatively superior to the NATO deployment. In particular, the forces that the Soviet Army deployed in the Allied countries were well trained and equipped and had a large number of modern tanks; equally efficient were the East German formations of the Nationale Volksarmee.

The steadfastness and determination of the Warsaw Pact armies was never tested in actual conflict, and the alliance showed its weakness at the time of the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989-1990 as a result of the reform and democratic drive promoted by the Soviet leadership. The pact came to an end on March 31, 1991, and was officially dissolved at a meeting held in Prague on July 1 of that year.


The official name was "Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance" and was thus translated into the languages of the various Covenant countries:


The structure included eight socialist states:


The Warsaw Pact provided for internal bodies for control and military cooperation among member states:


The organization's headquarters were initially located in Moscow. On October 3, 1972, the Western press first published news that the Soviet leadership was arranging for the construction of a complex of fortified underground facilities with communications systems near Lviv, RSS Ukraine. This measure brought the organization's governing bodies closer to the borders of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania, which were to speed up the mutual exchange of armed forces officers in the future.

In March 1973, information about the relocation of the Covenant headquarters from Moscow to Lviv was confirmed in the foreign press. Underground concrete bunkers and bomb shelters were built within the Ukrainian city limits and in the suburbs, where the command and control organs of Warsaw Pact troops were to be located. According to West German military observers, this measure was intended to reduce the length of land lines of communication, with a faster response for any possible attack and the quick return of combat orders to the military stationed in Central Europe in the event of various types of military incidents or internal civil unrest.

Lviv was an important transportation hub thanks to a developed railroad infrastructure and road network: through it and nearby cities passed the largest highways connecting the European part of the USSR with Eastern European countries. Later, the decision was revised and Moscow remained the headquarters, while Lviv became the site of regular meetings of the organization's high command staff.

Supreme commanders of the joint armed forces

From 1955 to 1991, the post of Supreme Commander of the Warsaw Pact was always held by a high-ranking officer of the Soviet Army.

Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces.

Exercises were conducted in the territories of Warsaw Pact countries, among them were:


  1. Warsaw Pact
  2. Patto di Varsavia

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