Warsaw Pact Is Signed Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Warsaw Pact, signed in response to the arming of West Germany, consolidated Soviet power in eastern and central Europe. The pact came to be seen as the opposing force to NATO, as the tensions between those two alliances would come to define the Cold War.

Summary of Event

The Warsaw Pact—formally known as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance Between the People’s Republic of Albania, the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the Hungarian People’s Republic, the German Democratic Republic, the Polish People’s Republic, the Romanian People’s Republic, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the Czechoslovak Republic—was signed on May 14, 1955. To a large extent, this multilateral alliance must be seen as an outgrowth of Soviet concerns over the rearming of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). Cold War;mutual defense agreements Warsaw Pact Soviet Union;and Eastern Europe[Eastern Europe] [kw]Warsaw Pact Is Signed (May 14, 1955) [kw]Pact Is Signed, Warsaw (May 14, 1955) Cold War;mutual defense agreements Warsaw Pact Soviet Union;and Eastern Europe[Eastern Europe] [g]Europe;May 14, 1955: Warsaw Pact Is Signed[04840] [g]Soviet Union;May 14, 1955: Warsaw Pact Is Signed[04840] [g]Albania;May 14, 1955: Warsaw Pact Is Signed[04840] [g]Bulgaria;May 14, 1955: Warsaw Pact Is Signed[04840] [g]Czechoslovakia;May 14, 1955: Warsaw Pact Is Signed[04840] [g]Germany;May 14, 1955: Warsaw Pact Is Signed[04840] [g]Hungary;May 14, 1955: Warsaw Pact Is Signed[04840] [g]Poland;May 14, 1955: Warsaw Pact Is Signed[04840] [g]Romania;May 14, 1955: Warsaw Pact Is Signed[04840] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;May 14, 1955: Warsaw Pact Is Signed[04840] [c]Cold War;May 14, 1955: Warsaw Pact Is Signed[04840] Bulganin, Nikolai Aleksandrovich Konev, Ivan Khrushchev, Nikita S. [p]Khrushchev, Nikita S.;Cold War Molotov, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich

The Soviet Union formally protested the Western arrangements providing for the creation of West German armed forces and the entry of West Germany into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The Soviets served notice in November, 1954, that the remilitarization of West Germany would lead to new security measures in Eastern Europe. The actual signing of the Warsaw Pact was preceded by the Moscow Conference of the future members in November-December, 1954. At this time, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister, presented a rather blunt statement regarding the revival of German militarism and the need for “special vigilance” and “practical measures.”

Molotov’s militant anti-Western stance was not entirely maintained by the subsequent Warsaw Conference. The new Soviet leaders, Soviet leadership;Nikita S. Khrushchev[Khrushchev] Nikita S. Khrushchev and Nikolai Aleksandrovich Bulganin Soviet leadership;Nikolai Aleksandrovich Bulganin[Bulganin] , had only recently asserted themselves in a power struggle with Georgi M. Malenkov Malenkov, Georgi M. , who led a faction in the Soviet Politburo associated with the commitment to détente. The Khrushchev-Bulganin leadership, however, was similarly inclined to adopt a somewhat softer foreign policy posture than the one advocated by Molotov. Molotov saw the pact as an instrument of military preparedness and socialist consolidation, whereas Khrushchev viewed it as a Cold War political device. Thus, the language and terms of the Warsaw Pact reflected the new Soviet priorities in international affairs.

It is certainly appropriate to view the Warsaw Pact as the Soviet counterpart to NATO. Indeed, the Warsaw Pact’s role as a military alliance opposing NATO continued to increase over the years. The Soviet Union maintained sizable combat-equipped forces in a forward deployment in the Warsaw Pact area, supported by tactical air and missile elements and reinforceable from the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, concern over the developments in NATO was not the sole reason for the Warsaw Pact. The period following Stalin’s death in 1953 had seen considerable diversity and agitation for increased independence on the part of the Eastern European satellite states, a phenomenon known as polycentrism. The changing political environment in Eastern Europe required new approaches and methods in the continuing efforts to sustain Soviet control over the area. The creation of a formal treaty organization, together with invigoration of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance(COMECON), established under Soviet auspices in 1949, appeared to be an excellent response to Soviet needs.

The eleven articles of the Warsaw Pact provided for consultation on all issues of common interest, the peaceful settlement of conflicts, and joint defense. The military convention was the most important part of the treaty; it allowed for the disposition of troops under the joint command for purposes of mutual defense. Soviet marshal Ivan Konev was appointed commander in chief, and the ministers of defense of the other member states became his deputies. Each of these deputy commanders was put in charge of the troops contributed by his own state. The headquarters, with a permanent staff of the joint armed forces and certain auxiliary bodies, were located in Moscow. For purposes of policy coordination, a political consultative committee was established.

Subsequent military integration efforts by the Soviet Union included the standardization of equipment and the development of a common infrastructure. Moreover, considerable effort was made to indoctrinate officers and men in loyalty to the “socialist camp.” Key positions in the satellite armies were awarded, as a matter of course, to Soviet-trained officers. The German Democratic Republic was initially excluded from participation in the joint command; it was given equal status at the first meeting of the political consultative committee held in Prague in January, 1956. As a deliberate counter to the developments in NATO, the East German National People’s Army was created and integrated into the joint command.

Significance

In retrospect, it is important to note that at the time of its inception, the Warsaw Pact was primarily designed to strengthen the Soviet position at the Geneva Summit Conference held in July, 1955. The Soviet government envisioned a European collective security treaty, which, when achieved, would provide for the simultaneous termination of NATO, the supplementary Paris agreements, and the Warsaw Pact. As an alternative to this maximum goal, the Soviets proposed a nonaggression treaty between the members of each alliance. No steps were taken, however, on either proposal at that time.

In its initial stages, then, the Warsaw Pact served the Soviet Union essentially as a Cold War political device. Indeed, during the first years of the treaty’s existence, the Soviet Union was not very intent on developing its potential as an integrated military alliance. The existing bilateral agreements with individual European states were sufficient with regard to the deployment of Soviet troops to counter American influence in Europe. Certain features of the pact, however, such as its “legitimizing” the presence of Soviet troops on Eastern European soil, gradually appreciated in value for the Soviet Union.

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The Soviets came to regard the Warsaw Pact as a highly useful instrument in East-West relations and in furthering its hegemonal interests in Eastern Europe Eastern Europe, domination by Soviet Union of Iron Curtain . The pact could be effectively used as a coordinating mechanism for foreign policy and the achievement of a uniform external posture. More important, it facilitated the achievement of general conformity to Moscow’s policy line for the area itself. Moscow was able to promote what it called “fraternal bloc solidarity,” and any member straying too far from the line could be subjected to disciplinary action behind the collective facade of the Warsaw Pact.

Riots and massive public demonstrations Civil unrest;Eastern Europe flared up in Poland and Hungary in the fall of 1956. The respective regimes attempted to respond to some of the demands and expectations, defying directives to the contrary from Moscow. Clearly, Soviet control over political developments in Eastern Europe was slipping. In October of 1956, the Soviets decided to intervene directly in Poland and Hungary. In the case of Poland, a Soviet delegation went to Warsaw and, backed by alerted Soviet troops stationed in the vicinity, was able to bring matters back under control.

In the case of Hungary, Hungarian Revolution (1956) Revolutions and coups;Hungary the great popular uprising ultimately led to the massive use of Soviet military force to crush the rebellion and to reestablish a regime subservient to Moscow. The Soviet use of armed might was justified under the Warsaw Pact’s terms, although these terms referred only to aiding a member state threatened by aggression and did not state what to do in case of civil war. The Soviet action was presented as a response to “the sacred duty” to protect the “achievements of socialism.” Reviewing the events in Hungary, there was no consultation within the context of the Warsaw Pact. The political consultative committee did not meet at all during this time of crisis.

The provisions of the treaty were reinterpreted to allow for “legitimate” intervention in the affairs of member states, including the use of force, under the doctrine of “proletarian internationalism.” Such disciplinary and policing functions became a significant part of Soviet policy and practice over the years. The most extreme instances were the interventions in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968. The resort to military force to bring these countries to heel did not truly depend on the Warsaw Pact. It was, however, politically and ideologically most expedient to give these operations a multilateral appearance. Cold War;mutual defense agreements Warsaw Pact Soviet Union;and Eastern Europe[Eastern Europe]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Brown, J. F. The New Eastern Europe: The Khrushchev Era and After. New York: Praeger, 1966. Early and highly acclaimed systematic study of the relations among communist states, containing useful information on the Warsaw Pact.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Clawson, Robert W., and Lawrence S. Kaplan, eds. The Warsaw Pact: Political Purpose and Military Means. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1982. Chapters on the principal political relationships within the Warsaw Pact, on NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the pact’s military strength and weaponry, and its doctrines and capabilities.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Epstein, Joshua M. Conventional Force Reductions: A Dynamic Assessment. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1990. See index for entries on the Warsaw Pact’s combat power, its overall military significance, and its relationship to NATO. See also the section in chapter 5, “Soviet Perceptions.”
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Holloway, David, and Jane M. O. Sharp. The Warsaw Pact: Alliance in Transition? Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984. Chapters on the Warsaw Pact’s history, defense capability, Soviet crisis management, foreign policy goals, the later policy of security through détente, and the Warsaw Pact in the context of the world system.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kelleher, Catherine McArdle. The Future of European Security: An Interim Assessment. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1995. Chapters 3 and 4 discuss the politics of European security and the relationship between Eastern and Western Europe. An excellent study of how the Cold War alliance system broke down, with extensive notes and bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mastny, Vojtech, and Malcolm Byrne, eds. A Cardboard Castle? An Inside History of the Warsaw Pact, 1955-1991. New York: Central European University Press, 2005. Massive, comprehensive history of the Warsaw Pact, reprinting many source documents written by officials of Warsaw Pact member nations. Bibliographic references and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Remington, Robin Alison. The Warsaw Pact: Case Studies in Communist Conflict Resolution. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1971. Still among the best studies of the resolution of various conflicts between the Soviet Union and other member states. A detailed study of the origins of the Warsaw Pact and its relationship to the struggle for power in the Soviet Union.

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