Warsaw Pact


The Warsaw Pact of 1955, also known as the 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 between the socialist states of the Eastern Bloc formed as a reaction to the rearmament and entry into NATO of the Federal Republic of Germany in May of that year.

For 36 years, NATO and the Warsaw Pact never directly clashed in Europe: the US and the USSR together with their respective allies implemented strategic policies aimed at containing the adversary on the European territory, while they worked and fought for influence on the international level by 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 for 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 of America and France.

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

In May 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany emerged in the west of Germany, followed soon after by the German Democratic Republic in the Soviet occupation zone 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 between January and February 1954, the Soviet Foreign Minister Vjačeslav Molotov presented on that occasion proposals for a possible German reunification and elections for a pan-German government, on condition of the withdrawal of the armies of the four occupying powers and the neutrality of Germany, but were rejected by Ministers John Foster Dulles (USA), Anthony Eden (UK) and Georges Bidault (France). Later, Dulles met in Paris Eden, the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the French Robert Schuman, pushing 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 stated 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 the dominance of his Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) in the Bundestag.

Molotov, fearing that the CED would turn against the USSR in the future and “trying 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 EDC but also by Western opponents of the latter (such as the French leader Gaston Palewski), considering it “unacceptable in its current form because it excludes the US from participation in the collective security system in Europe”. The Soviets then proposed to the governments of the US, UK and France to accept US participation in the proposed General European Agreement. Considering also the fact that the Western Powers regarded 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 entry into NATO, was immediately rejected by Western governments. Emblematic was the position of Hastings Lionel Ismay, NATO”s secretary general and a fervent supporter of its expansion, who opposed the Soviet application to join the Atlantic Pact by comparing 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 delayed 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 to work out alternatives: Germany would have to be invited to join NATO, otherwise, in case of French obstructionism, strategies would be implemented to override the French veto and rearm Germany outside NATO.


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 the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Halvard Lange. The possibility of a new rearmed Germany generated fears in the leadership of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, the German Democratic Republic and the Polish People”s Republic: these states strongly opposed the re-militarization of West Germany and sought 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 of a direct threat similar to that posed by the Germans just before the Second World War, the memory of which was still fresh in the memories of the Soviets and Eastern Europeans. Since the USSR had already concluded bilateral agreements with the 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 against a member state. Formally, relations between the signatories of the Treaty were based on non-intervention in the internal affairs of member states, respect for national sovereignty and political independence. The Political Advisory Committee (Russian: Политический консультативный комитет, ПКК?, transliterated: Političeskij konsul”tativnyj komitet, PKK) was established as a supervisory body, formed by delegates from each member country.

The treaty, made up of 11 articles and drafted in Russian, Polish, Czech and German, came into force on June 4, 1955, when all adhering countries deposited their certificates of participation in the organization with the Polish government. Despite being a full member, Albania did not participate in the sessions of the Pact.

The treaty was to be renewed every twenty years, while for those contracting states that, within one year before the fixed expiration, had not submitted to the Government of the Polish People”s Republic the declaration of renunciation of the Treaty, it would remain in force for the next ten years. The Warsaw Pact was 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 presented proposals including the replacement of existing military groups in Europe with a system of collective security, the creation of military limitation zones and arms control.

In the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union had pre-eminence at both the administrative and decision-making levels. 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 the organization, training and deployment of the available forces and who in the event of war would operationally direct the troops. During the whole period of the alliance, the supreme commander was always a high Soviet officer; the first supreme commander of the Pact was Marshal Ivan Konev, one of the most famous and prestigious Soviet officers of the Second World War. The supreme commander”s main collaborator was the Warsaw Pact Chief of Staff, who was always chosen from among Soviet senior officers.

Cold War

In the autumn of 1956, an anti-Soviet insurrection 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 multi-party regime. Fearing the spread of anti-Soviet feelings in the Eastern Bloc and the crumbling of the same, and following the announcement by Radio Free Europe of a possible intervention of the U.S. military, the Soviet Union decided to invade Hungary, depose the government of Nagy and suppress the revolt. In the clashes, died about 2,700 Hungarians, pro and anti revolution, and 720 Soviet soldiers.

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

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”s Political Committee met in Warsaw to discuss plans for the creation of multilateral nuclear forces by NATO and considered protective measures in the event of the implementation of such plans.

During the meeting of the PKK in Bucharest between July 4 and 6, 1966, the Declaration on Strengthening Peace and Security in Europe was adopted (Russian: Декларация об укреплении мира и безопасности в Европе?, transliterated: Deklaracija ob ukreplenii mira i bezopasnosti v Evrope). The program in the declaration included, in particular, the development of good-neighborly relations between all European states on the basis of the principles of peaceful coexistence between 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 questions of security 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 nuclear nonproliferation and the Vietnam War, condemning U.S. military intervention and renewing the Warsaw Pact”s support for the liberation struggle waged by the communist Viet Cong and the Vietnam People”s Army.

The only joint, multinational operation of the socialist armed forces was Operation Dunaj, or the Warsaw Pact 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 Pact member countries 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 Brezhnev Doctrine, according to which the possible presence of forces hostile to socialism, which could divert the development of socialist countries towards 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 military organization of the Warsaw Pact, 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 solid system of collective security.

In the seventies, the Warsaw Pact was mainly limited to military exercises and focused in particular on the constant coordination between the intelligence services of the member countries: in 1977, the treaty on the creation of the “System of combined calculation of data on the enemy” SOUD (in 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 electronic and space reconnaissance assets also from Vietnam, Mongolia and Cuba.

Eighties 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 twenty years.

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

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

The new governments in Eastern Europe were no longer supporters of the Pact. Following the military repression in Lithuania in January 1991, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary announced, through the spokesman of Czechoslovak President Václav Havel, their intention to leave the Warsaw Pact by the first of July. On February 1 also the Bulgarian president Želju Želev announced his intention to leave the Pact. On February 25 in Budapest, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense of the six countries (USSR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary) remaining in the organization decided to dissolve on March 31 the Unified High Command and all military bodies dependent on the Pact. 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 began the process that will lead to the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991.

After 1991

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

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

Тhe adhering nations all contributed significant contingents of troops and equipment; armament in large part was provided by the Soviet Union, and the armies conducted regular joint exercises to improve cohesion and cooperation. The main military strength was the Soviet Army, which was deployed in all the countries of the Pact, in particular in the German Democratic Republic where the Soviet Forces Group in Germany (GSVG) consisted of the most prepared and modern formations of the Red Army and had been trained to carry out rapid offensive maneuvers with armored vehicles in case of a possible armed conflict with NATO. In the seventies and eighties, the GSVG had almost 8 000 tanks of the latest generation including T-64, T-72 and T-80.

Between 1980 and 1984, the military forces of the Warsaw Pact reached their greatest numerical and organizational power, constituting a war complex that appeared 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 a real conflict and the alliance showed its weakness at the time of the collapse of the 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 during a meeting held in Prague on July 1 of the same 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 Warsaw Pact provided for internal bodies for control and military cooperation among the 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 in the future were to accelerate the mutual exchange of armed forces officers.

In March 1973, information about the relocation of the Covenant headquarters from Moscow to Lviv was confirmed in the foreign press. Within the borders of the Ukrainian city and in the suburbs, underground concrete bunkers and bomb shelters were built, where the command and control bodies of the Warsaw Pact troops were to be located. According to West German military observers, this measure aimed 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 case of various types of military incidents or internal civil unrest.

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

Supreme Commanders of the Joint Forces

The exercises were carried out in the territories of the countries belonging to the Warsaw Pact, among them were:


  1. Patto di Varsavia
  2. Warsaw Pact
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