Warsaw Treaty Organization
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Warsaw Treaty Organization The Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) was an alliance among countries of the Soviet bloc bound by the Warsaw Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, often referred to as the Warsaw Security Pact (1955). Established in May 1955, the organization was created as a response to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a means of maintaining the East-West balance of power during the Cold War. The WTO was dissolved in 1991.

NATO was formed in 1949 as a specifically anti-Soviet alliance, but the Soviet Union did not undertake to create an alliance of its own until the Paris Accords of 1954, which allowed for the rearmament of West Germany and its inclusion in NATO. Having suffered many devastating German attacks in its history, the admission of West Germany into NATO signified to the Soviets that the division of Eastern and Western Europe was becoming permanent and that it was necessary to protect the western boundaries of its sphere of influence. The Warsaw Treaty was similar to the North Atlantic Treaty (1949) in binding the member nations into a policy of common defense. A hostile attack against any member state called for the immediate aid of all other members. Each country also signed a bilateral pact with the Soviet Union. The original signatories were Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. Yugoslavia remained outside the alliance, preferring a policy of nonalignment. At first, China, North Korea, Mongolia, and Vietnam had observer status, but China withdrew after the Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s.

Though Albania also became anti-Soviet in the early 1960s and withdrew from the organization, the WTO was more sorely tested during the events of the Prague Spring in 1968. A broad-based attempt to democratize political life in Czechoslovakia was interpreted by the leadership of the Soviet Union as a case in which "socialism was threatened." According to Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev, the situation required intervention. Czechoslovakia temporarily withdrew from the Warsaw Pact as 500,000 WTO troops invaded the country to "restore order."

The dominant role played by the Soviet Union within the WTO was not always appreciated by the other member states. The Soviet Union stationed troops in all the countries of Eastern Europe except Romania, Albania, and Bulgaria. Though the Soviets put considerable pressure on Romania to change this arrangement, the nationalism of Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu led him to resist these demands. The invasion of Czechoslovakia was the only joint military operation of the WTO; the invasion of Hungary in 1956 and of Afghanistan in 1979 were carried out by the Soviet Union alone.

In theory, the Warsaw Pact was to provide resources, troops, and money to be used for defense purposes. In practice, the available forces were controlled by the Soviet Union, which benefited from the pact since it reduced Soviet military expenditure. The organization prevented any one non-Soviet army from becoming too powerful, and no Eastern European officer could command national forces without Soviet approval. Many such officers were trained at the Frunze Military Academy in the Soviet Union.

WTO administration was in the hands of the Political Consultative Committee composed of representatives from each member state. This body met irregularly, and between its meetings, the Joint Secretariat, located in Moscow and dominated by the Soviets, resolved any policy issues. The Joint Armed Forces Command was the primary military agency, which was also headed by a Soviet marshal who normally led the united forces of the WTO as well. The chiefs of staff of the member countries met as the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the jurisdiction of the Joint Armed Forces Command.

The group's viability as a military force was destroyed in the late 1980s and early 1990s as its members underwent extensive political changes and the communist bloc collapsed. Its unified military command was dissolved in March 1991 and the residual political organization in July 1991.


MLA Citation

"Warsaw Treaty Organization." NATO, THEN AND NOW. ABC-CLIO, 2021. Web. 27 November 2021.

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