Warsaw Pact

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Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance
Warsaw Pact Logo.svg
Warsaw Pact in 1990 (orthographic projection).svg
Warsaw Pact in 1990
Founded14 May 1955 (1955-05-14)
Founded at Warsaw, Poland
Dissolved1 July 1991 (1991-07-01)
Type Military alliance
Headquarters Moscow, Soviet Union
Affiliations Council for Mutual Economic Assistance

The Warsaw Pact, formally known as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, [1] was a collective defence treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland among the Soviet Union and seven Soviet satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe in May 1955, during the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact was the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CoMEcon), the regional economic organization for the socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact was created in reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO [2] [3] [4] [5] in 1955 per the London and Paris Conferences of 1954, [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] but it is also considered to have been motivated by Soviet desires to maintain control over military forces in Central and Eastern Europe. [11]

Warsaw City metropolis in Masovia, Poland

Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. The metropolis stands on the Vistula River in east-central Poland and its population is officially estimated at 1.765 million residents within a greater metropolitan area of 3.1 million residents, which makes Warsaw the 8th most-populous capital city in the European Union. The city limits cover 516.9 square kilometres (199.6 sq mi), while the metropolitan area covers 6,100.43 square kilometres (2,355.39 sq mi). Warsaw is an alpha global city, a major international tourist destination, and a significant cultural, political and economic hub. Its historical Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Polish Peoples Republic official name of Poland from 1952 to 1989

The Polish People's Republic was a state in Central Europe that existed from 1947 to 1989, and the predecessor of the modern democratic Republic of Poland. With a population of approximately 37.9 million inhabitants near the end of its existence, it was the most populous state of the Eastern Bloc after the Soviet Union. Having a unitary Marxist–Leninist communist government, it was also one of the main signatories of the Warsaw Pact. The official capital since 1947 and largest city was Warsaw, followed by industrial Łódź and cultural Kraków.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.


The Warsaw Pact was established as a balance of power [12] or counterweight [13] to NATO; there was no direct confrontation between them. Instead, the conflict was fought on an ideological basis and in proxy wars. Both NATO and the Warsaw Pact led to the expansion of military forces and their integration into the respective blocs. [13] Its largest military engagement was the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 (with the participation of all Pact nations except Albania, Romania and East Germany), [12] which, in part, resulted in Albania withdrawing from the pact less than a month later. The Pact began to unravel in its entirety with the spread of the Counter-Revolutions of 1989 through the Eastern Bloc, beginning with the Solidarity movement in Poland [14] and its electoral success in June 1989.

Proxy war conflict between two actors where none of them directly engages the other

A proxy war is an armed conflict between two states or non-state actors which act on the instigation or on behalf of other parties that are not directly involved in the hostilities. In order for a conflict to be considered a proxy war, there must be a direct, long-term relationship between external actors and the belligerents involved. The aforementioned relationship usually takes the form of funding, military training, arms, or other forms of material assistance which assist a belligerent party in sustaining its war effort.

Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia August 1968 unrest in Czechoslovakia

The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, officially known as Operation Danube, was a joint invasion of Czechoslovakia by five Warsaw Pact countries – the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria, East Germany and Hungary – on the night of 20–21 August 1968. Approximately 250,000 Warsaw pact troops attacked Czechoslovakia that night, with Romania and Albania refusing to participate. East German forces, except for a small number of specialists, did not participate in the invasion because they were ordered from Moscow not to cross the Czechoslovak border just hours before the invasion. 137 Czechoslovakian civilians were killed and 500 seriously wounded during the occupation.

Peoples Socialist Republic of Albania 1944-1991 republic in Southeastern Europe, predecessor of modern Albania

Albania, officially the People's Socialist Republic of Albania, was a Marxist-Leninist government that ruled Albania from 1946 to 1992. From 1944 to 1946, it was known as the Democratic Government of Albania and from 1946 to 1976 as the People's Republic of Albania.

East Germany withdrew from the Pact following reunification with West Germany in 1990. On 25 February 1991, the Pact was declared at an end at a meeting of defence and foreign ministers from the six remaining member states in Hungary. The USSR itself was dissolved in December 1991, although most of the former Soviet republics formed the Collective Security Treaty Organization shortly thereafter. Throughout the following 20 years, the seven Warsaw Pact countries outside the USSR each joined NATO (East Germany through its reunification with West Germany; and the Czech Republic and Slovakia as separate countries), as did the three Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) that had been part of the Soviet Union.

East Germany former communist country, 1949-1990

East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic, was a country that existed from 1949 to 1990, when the eastern portion of Germany was part of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. It described itself as a socialist "workers' and peasants' state", and the territory was administered and occupied by Soviet forces at the end of World War II — the Soviet Occupation Zone of the Potsdam Agreement, bounded on the east by the Oder–Neisse line. The Soviet zone surrounded West Berlin but did not include it; as a result, West Berlin remained outside the jurisdiction of the GDR.

West Germany Federal Republic of Germany in the years 1949–1990

West Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, and referred to by historians as the Bonn Republic, was a country in Central Europe that existed from 1949 to 1990, when the western portion of Germany was part of the Western bloc during the Cold War. It was created during the Allied occupation of Germany in 1949 after World War II, established from eleven states formed in the three Allied zones of occupation held by the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Its capital was the city of Bonn.

Hungarian Peoples Republic 1949–1989 socialist republic in Central/Eastern Europe

The Hungarian People's Republic was a one-party socialist republic from 20 August 1949 to 23 October 1989. It was governed by the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party, which was under the influence of the Soviet Union pursuant to the 1944 Moscow Conference during which Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin had agreed that after the war Hungary was to be included in the Soviet sphere of influence.


A Soviet philatelic commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Warsaw Pact in 1975 stating that it remains "On guard for Peace and Socialism". 1975 CPA 4448.jpg
A Soviet philatelic commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Warsaw Pact in 1975 stating that it remains "On guard for Peace and Socialism".

In the Western Bloc, the Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance is often called the Warsaw Pact military alliance—abbreviated WAPA, Warpac and WP. Elsewhere, in the former member states, the Warsaw Treaty is known as:

Western Bloc countries allied with the United States and NATO during the Cold War

The Western Bloc during the Cold War refers to capitalist countries under the hegemony of the United States and NATO against the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. The latter were referred to as the Eastern Bloc. The governments and press of the Western Bloc were more inclined to refer to themselves as the "Free World" or the "Western world", whereas the Eastern Bloc was often called the "Communist world or Second world".

Military alliance alliance between different states with the purpose to cooperate militarily

A military alliance is an international agreement concerning national security, when the contracting parties agree to mutual protection and support in case of a crisis that has not been identified in advance. Military alliances differ from coalitions, as coalitions are formed for a crisis that are already known.

Albanian language Indo-European language

Albanian is an Indo-European language spoken by the Albanians in the Balkans and the Albanian diaspora in the Americas, Europe and Oceania. It comprises an independent branch within the Indo-European languages and is not closely related to any other language in Europe.

Armenian language Indo-European language

The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken primarily by Armenians. It is the official language of Armenia. Historically being spoken throughout the Armenian Highlands, today, Armenian is widely spoken throughout the Armenian diaspora. Armenian is written in its own writing system, the Armenian alphabet, introduced in 405 AD by Mesrop Mashtots.

There are various systems of romanization of the Armenian alphabet.


The Warsaw Treaty's organization was two-fold: the Political Consultative Committee handled political matters, and the Combined Command of Pact Armed Forces controlled the assigned multi-national forces, with headquarters in Warsaw, Poland. Furthermore, the Supreme Commander of the Unified Armed Forces of the Warsaw Treaty Organization which commanded and controlled all the military forces of the member countries was also a First Deputy Minister of Defence of the USSR, and the Chief of Combined Staff of the Unified Armed Forces of the Warsaw Treaty Organization was also a First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR. Therefore, although ostensibly an international collective security alliance, the USSR dominated the Warsaw Treaty armed forces. [15]


The strategy behind the formation of the Warsaw Pact was driven by the desire of the Soviet Union to dominate Central and Eastern Europe. The Soviets wanted to keep their part of Europe and not let the Americans take it from them. This policy was driven by ideological and geostrategic reasons. Ideologically, the Soviet Union arrogated the right to define socialism and communism and act as the leader of the global socialist movement. A corollary to this idea was the necessity of intervention if a country appeared to be violating core socialist ideas and Communist Party functions, which was explicitly stated in the Brezhnev Doctrine. [16] Geostrategic principles also drove the Soviet Union with the desire to create a buffer zone to prevent invasion of its territory by Western European powers.



The Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, where the Warsaw Pact was established and signed on 14 May 1955 Warszawa Palac Prezydencki 2011.jpg
The Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, where the Warsaw Pact was established and signed on 14 May 1955

Before the creation of the Warsaw Pact, Czechoslovak leadership, fearful of a rearmed Germany, sought to create a security pact with East Germany and Poland. [9] These states protested strongly against the re-militarization of West Germany. [17] The Warsaw Pact was primarily put in place as a consequence of the rearming of West Germany inside NATO. Soviet leaders, like many European countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain, feared Germany being once again a military power and a direct threat. The terrible consequences of German militarism remained a fresh memory among the Soviets and Eastern Europeans. [3] [4] [18] [19] [20] As the Soviet Union already had bilateral treaties with all of its eastern satellites, the Pact has been long considered 'superfluous', [21] and because of the rushed way in which it was conceived, NATO officials labeled it as a 'cardboard castle'. [22] Previously, in March 1954, the USSR, fearing the restoration of German militarism in West Germany, requested admission to NATO. [23] [24] [25]

The Soviet request to join NATO arose in the aftermath of the Berlin Conference of January–February 1954. Soviet foreign minister Molotov made proposals to have Germany reunified [26] and elections for a pan-German government, [27] under conditions of withdrawal of the four powers' armies and German neutrality, [28] but all were refused by the other foreign ministers, Dulles (USA), Eden (UK) and Bidault (France). [29] Proposals for the reunification of Germany were nothing new: earlier on 20 March 1952, talks about a German reunification, initiated by the so-called 'Stalin Note', ended after the United Kingdom, France and the United States insisted that a unified Germany should not be neutral and should be free to join the European Defence Community and rearm. James Dunn (USA), who met in Paris with Eden, Adenauer and Robert Schuman (France), affirmed that "the object should be to avoid discussion with the Russians and to press on the European Defense Community". [30] According to John Gaddis "there was little inclination in Western capitals to explore this offer" from USSR. [31] While historian Rolf Steininger asserts that Adenauer's conviction that "neutralization means sovietization" was the main factor in the rejection of the Soviet proposals, [32] Adenauer also feared that German unification might have resulted in the end of the CDU's dominance in the West German Bundestag. [33]

NATO (blue) against the Warsaw Pact (red) combined forces in 1973 during the Cold War Military power of NATO and the Warsaw Pact states in 1973.svg
NATO (blue) against the Warsaw Pact (red) combined forces in 1973 during the Cold War

Consequently, Molotov, fearing that the EDC would be directed in the future against the USSR and "seeking to prevent the formation of groups of European States directed against other European States", [34] made a proposal for a General European Treaty on Collective Security in Europe "open to all European States without regard as to their social systems" [34] which would have included the unified Germany (thus making the EDC – perceived by the USSR as a threat – unusable). But Eden, Dulles and Bidault opposed the proposal. [35]

One month later, the proposed European Treaty was rejected not only by supporters of the EDC but also by Western opponents of the European Defence Community (like French Gaullist leader Palewski) who perceived it as "unacceptable in its present form because it excludes the USA from participation in the collective security system in Europe". [36] The Soviets then decided to make a new proposal to the governments of the USA, UK and France to accept the participation of the USA in the proposed General European Agreement. [36] And considering that another argument deployed against the Soviet proposal was that it was perceived by Western powers as "directed against the North Atlantic Pact and its liquidation", [36] [37] the Soviets decided to declare their "readiness to examine jointly with other interested parties the question of the participation of the USSR in the North Atlantic bloc", specifying that "the admittance of the USA into the General European Agreement should not be conditional on the three Western powers agreeing to the USSR joining the North Atlantic Pact". [36]

Warsaw Pact "Big Seven" threats displaying the equipment of the communist forces Soviet big 7.jpg
Warsaw Pact "Big Seven" threats displaying the equipment of the communist forces

Again all proposals, including the request to join NATO, were rejected by the UK, US and French governments shortly after. [25] [38] Emblematic was the position of British General Hastings Ismay, a fierce supporter of NATO expansion. He opposed the request to join NATO made by the USSR in 1954 [39] saying that "the Soviet request to join NATO is like an unrepentant burglar requesting to join the police force". [40]

In April 1954 Adenauer made his first visit to the USA meeting Nixon, Eisenhower and Dulles. Ratification of EDC was delaying but the US representatives made it clear to Adenauer that EDC would have to become a part of NATO. [41]

Memories of the Nazi occupation were still strong, and the rearmament of Germany was feared by France too. [4] [42] On 30 August 1954 French Parliament rejected the EDC, thus ensuring its failure [43] and blocking a major objective of US policy towards Europe: to associate Germany militarily with the West. [44] The US Department of State started to elaborate alternatives: Germany would be invited to join NATO or, in the case of French obstructionism, strategies to circumvent a French veto would be implemented in order to obtain a German rearmament outside NATO. [45]

A typical Soviet military jeep UAZ-469, used by most countries of the Warsaw Pact UAZ-469 (4713547953).jpg
A typical Soviet military jeep UAZ-469, used by most countries of the Warsaw Pact

On 23 October 1954 – only nine years after Allies (UK, USA and USSR) defeated Nazi Germany ending World War II in Europe – the admission of the Federal Republic of Germany to the North Atlantic Pact was finally decided. The incorporation of West Germany into the organization on 9 May 1955 was described as "a decisive turning point in the history of our continent" by Halvard Lange, Foreign Affairs Minister of Norway at the time. [46] In November 1954, the USSR requested a new European Security Treaty, [47] in order to make a final attempt to not have a remilitarized West Germany potentially opposed to the Soviet Union, with no success.

On 14 May 1955, the USSR and other seven European countries "reaffirming their desire for the establishment of a system of European collective security based on the participation of all European states irrespective of their social and political systems" [48] established the Warsaw Pact in response to the integration of the Federal Republic of Germany into NATO, [3] [5] declaring that: "a remilitarized Western Germany and the integration of the latter in the North-Atlantic bloc [...] increase the danger of another war and constitutes a threat to the national security of the peaceable states; [...] in these circumstances the peaceable European states must take the necessary measures to safeguard their security". [48]

One of the founding members, East Germany was allowed to re-arm by the Soviet Union and the National People's Army was established as the armed forces of the country to counter the rearmament of West Germany and vice versa. [49]


Meeting of seven representatives of the Warsaw Pact countries in May 1987. From left to right: Gustav Husak, Todor Zhivkov, Erich Honecker, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nicolae Ceausescu, Wojciech Jaruzelski and Janos Kadar Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1987-0529-029, Berlin, Tagung Warschauer Pakt, Gruppenfoto.jpg
Meeting of seven representatives of the Warsaw Pact countries in May 1987. From left to right: Gustáv Husák, Todor Zhivkov, Erich Honecker, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nicolae Ceaușescu, Wojciech Jaruzelski and János Kádár

The eight member countries of the Warsaw Pact pledged the mutual defence of any member who would be attacked. Relations among the treaty signatories were based upon mutual non-intervention in the internal affairs of the member countries, respect for national sovereignty, and political independence. However, almost all governments of those member states were indirectly controlled by the Soviet Union. [50]

The founding signatories to the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance consisted of the following communist governments:

Flag of the People's Republic of Mongolia (1945-1992).svg  Mongolia: In July 1963 the Mongolian People's Republic asked to join the Warsaw Pact under Article 9 of the treaty. [52] Due to the emerging Sino-Soviet split, Mongolia remained on observer status. [52] The Soviet Government agreed to station troops in Mongolia in 1966. [53]

During Cold War

Soviet tanks on the streets of Prague during the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, 1968 Praga 11.jpg
Soviet tanks on the streets of Prague during the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, 1968

For 36 years, NATO and the Warsaw Pact never directly waged war against each other in Europe; the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies implemented strategic policies aimed at the containment of each other in Europe, while working and fighting for influence within the wider Cold War on the international stage. These included the Korean War, Vietnam War, Bay of Pigs invasion, Dirty War, Cambodian–Vietnamese War and the others. [54] [55]

In 1956, following the declaration of the Imre Nagy government of withdrawal of Hungary from the Warsaw Pact, Soviet troops entered the country and removed the government. [56] Soviet forces crushed the nationwide revolt, leading to the death of an estimated 2,500 Hungarian citizens. [57]

The multi-national Communist armed forces' sole joint action was the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. [58] All member countries, with the exception of the Socialist Republic of Romania and the People's Republic of Albania, participated in the invasion. [59] The German Democratic Republic provided only minimal support, however. [59]

End of the Cold War

In 1989, popular civil and political public discontent toppled the Communist governments of the Warsaw Treaty countries. Independent national politics made feasible with the perestroika and glasnost policies induced institutional collapse of the Communist government in the USSR in 1991. [60] From 1989 to 1991, Communist governments were overthrown in Albania, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Romania, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union.

As the last acts of the Cold War were playing out, several Warsaw Pact states (Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary) participated in the U.S.-led coalition effort to liberate Kuwait in the Gulf War.

On 25 February 1991, the Warsaw Pact was declared disbanded at a meeting of defence and foreign ministers from remaining Pact countries meeting in Hungary. [61] On 1 July 1991, in Prague, the Czechoslovak President Václav Havel [62] formally ended the 1955 Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance and so disestablished the Warsaw Treaty after 36 years of military alliance with the USSR. [62] [63] The USSR disestablished itself in December 1991.

Central and Eastern Europe after the Warsaw Treaty

Expansion of NATO before and after the collapse of communism throughout Central and Eastern Europe NATO expansion.png
Expansion of NATO before and after the collapse of communism throughout Central and Eastern Europe

On 12 March 1999, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined NATO; Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia joined in March 2004; Albania joined on 1 April 2009. [64] [65]

Russia and some other post-USSR states joined the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in 1992, or the Shanghai Five in 1996, which was renamed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) after Uzbekistan's addition in 2001. [66]

In November 2005, the Polish government [67] opened its Warsaw Treaty archives to the Institute of National Remembrance, which published some 1,300 declassified documents in January 2006. Yet the Polish government reserved publication of 100 documents, pending their military declassification. Eventually, 30 of the reserved 100 documents were published; 70 remained secret and unpublished. Among the documents published is the Warsaw Treaty's nuclear war plan, Seven Days to the River Rhine – a short, swift counter-attack capturing Austria, Denmark, Germany and Netherlands east of River Rhine, using nuclear weapons, in self-defence, after a NATO first strike. [68] The plan originated as a 1979 [69] field training exercise war game and metamorphosed into official Warsaw Treaty battle doctrine, until the late 1980s – which is why the Polish People's Republic was a nuclear weapons base, [70] first, to 178, then, to 250 tactical-range rockets, though these numbers may differ. Doctrinally, as a Soviet-style (offensive) battle plan, Seven Days to the River Rhine gave commanders few defensive-war strategies for fighting NATO in Warsaw Treaty territory. [68] [71]

See also

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  1. Withheld support in 1961 because of the Soviet-Albanian split, formally withdrew in 1968
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