Every Thursday, we will use an event that occurred on this date to discuss an important moment in international history. This week: The Warsaw Pact is formed (1955)
In 1955, the Soviet oversaw the Warsaw Pact as a way of countering NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) – a collective security agreement between the U.S., Canada and western European states. The resulting alliance, which consisted of eight eastern European states—Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania, in addition to the USSR —was both a political and a military one, in possession of its own political consultative committee and armed forces.
The proposal for the Warsaw Pact (or the Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation, and Mutual Assistance) was primarily in response to the integration of West Germany into NATO and the denial of the Soviet’s own request to join the alliance. With the entry of the Federal Republic of Germany into NATO, the Soviet’s apprehensions about a re-militarized West Germany and a strengthened western bloc grew. Less than a week later, the Warsaw Pact was established in retaliation to what the contracting parties declared “a threat to the national security of peaceable states.” The contracting parties pledged their immediate support to one another in the event of an armed attack, while promoting friendship, cooperation, and non-interference in internal affairs.
While the agreement was portrayed as one of collective defense, the Soviet dominated the pact’s armed forces and was able to substantially extend its control over Eastern European nations. When Hungary’s new communist leader, Imre Nagy, chose to withdraw Hungary from the Warsaw Pact and end their alliance with the Soviet Union in 1956, the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev exercised unilateral force to crush the Hungarian uprising and presented the act as being carried under the Warsaw Pact. The Soviets had begun to use the treaty as a tool for preventing defections through force and extending their influence in the region.
The Warsaw pact suffered greatly under the regional economy in the 1980s. It became virtually ineffective with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. In July of 1991, the treaty was officially dissolved in Prague. The dissolution of the Warsaw Pact was followed by structural changes in NATO, which extended its membership to Eastern Europe, including some of the pact’s former members.