The Warsaw Pact was a military agreement signed by countries of the communist bloc during the Cold War. This military alliance arose as a response to the military coalition formed by the NATO countries.
After World War II, Europe was divided into two blocs: a western one, with liberal democracies and market economies, and a second communist bloc, with central planning systems.
The city of Berlin, located in the Russian occupation zone, was also divided in two and, in 1948, the Soviet Union blocked access by road. Borders were closed and, in 1949, the countries of the Western bloc were grouped around a large defensive military alliance called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The communist bloc’s response was not long in coming, and in 1955, it materialized in the form of a military cooperation agreement called the Warsaw Pact. This agreement was devised by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and brought together countries such as Albania, the Democratic Republic of Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Romania. For their part, China and North Korea remained in the Warsaw Pact only as observers.
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What was the purpose of the Warsaw Pact?
The primary goal of the Warsaw Pact was defense and military cooperation against NATO forces. All this implied updating the military equipment of the signatory countries and the close coordination of their military forces.
Another objective was the suppression of any uprising against the communist bloc, as happened in Hungary in 1956 and in Prague in 1968. In fact, the power of the alliance contributed to quelling both uprisings.
In 1968, Albania left the Warsaw Pact, so Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev forbade any more states to withdraw from that great military agreement.
For decades, the military forces of the Warsaw Pact and NATO maintained a strong rivalry that did not lead to open conflict. However, the moment of greatest tension between the two military alliances took place in 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis.
How did the Warsaw Pact work?
As previously noted, this Cold War military alliance was made up of countries that were member states and others that simply remained observers. Likewise, the Warsaw Pact was initially signed for a period of twenty years, with the possibility of renewal for an additional twenty years.
The objectives of the Warsaw Pact were designated by a committee made up of the different heads of state. Once a year, heads of state, defense ministers and generals from different countries met to discuss the different policies of the alliance.
For its part, the political committee had the support and military advice of another committee made up of military personnel, which provided advice on technical matters.
It should be noted that this organization not only brought together the conventional military forces of the communist bloc countries, but also included the nuclear forces. This great military coalition had the Soviet Union as its preponderant country.
With Mikhail Gorbachev at the helm of the Soviet Union, Russia began a stage of opening up to the West. In this way, each member state had discretion to resolve its own issues.
Political and social changes were unstoppable in Eastern Europe, and in 1989, a decisive historical event took place with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Two years later, in 1991, the different countries that made up the Warsaw Pact gradually abandoned the organization. Arrived on July 1, 1991, its dissolution took place.
The cold war was left behind and a more peaceful international policy was opted for. This meant the arrival of democracy in the countries of Eastern Europe and the subsequent entry into NATO of former member states of the Warsaw Pact.