May 14th, 1955: The Establishment of the Warsaw Pact

The Warsaw Pact conference

On this day in 1955, the Soviet Union and seven of its European satellites signed a treaty in Warsaw, Poland, establishing the Warsaw Pact, a mutual defense pact dominated by Moscow.

Its initial members, besides the Soviet Union, were Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania. Albania was expelled in 1962 because Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, held that the Albanians had strayed too far from the Soviet orbit, turning to China for support.

Formation of the Warsaw Pact was triggered by the rearming of West Germany and its inclusion in NATO, which was seen by the Kremlin as imperiling its interests. West Germany had joined NATO nine days earlier, on May 5.

The introduction to the treaty cited “Western Germany, which is being remilitarized, and her inclusion in the North Atlantic bloc, which increases the danger of a new war and creates a threat to the national security of peace-loving states.”

Like NATO, the Warsaw Pact focused on the need to maintain a coordinated defense among its member states. When the Kremlin decided to use military force to put down anti-communist revolts in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Soviet hierarchy justified its actions as having been carried out by the Warsaw Pact rather than just by the Soviet Union.

In 1990, East Germany left the pact and reunited with West Germany. A reunified Germany then became a member of NATO.

The rise of noncommunist governments in other Eastern bloc nations, such as Poland and Czechoslovakia, throughout 1990 and 1991, along with the imminent implosion of the Soviet Union, undermined any rationale for continued maintenance of the Warsaw Pact.

In March 1991, the military alliance component of the pact was dissolved. The final meeting of the political consultative body took place in July 1991.

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