May 14, 1955 - Warsaw Pact Founded

The Soviet Union and seven of its European satellites sign a treaty establishing the Warsaw Pact, a mutual defense organization that put the Soviets in command of the armed forces of the member states.

The Warsaw Pact, so named because the treaty was signed in Warsaw, included the Soviet Union, Albania, Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria as members. The treaty called on the member states to come to the defense of any member attacked by an outside force and it set up a unified military command under Marshal Ivan S. Konev of the Soviet Union. The introduction to the treaty establishing the Warsaw Pact indicated the reason for its existence. This revolved around “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.” This passage referred to the decision by the United States and the other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on May 9, 1955 to make West Germany a member of NATO and allow that nation to remilitarize. The Soviets obviously saw this as a direct threat and responded with the Warsaw Pact.

The Warsaw Pact remained intact until 1991. Albania was expelled in 1962 because, believing that Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev was deviating too much from strict Marxist orthodoxy, the country turned to communist China for aid and trade. In 1990, East Germany left the Pact and reunited with West Germany; the reunified Germany then became a member of NATO. The rise of non-communist governments in other eastern bloc nations, such as Poland and Czechoslovakia, throughout 1990 and 1991 marked an effective end of the power of the Warsaw Pact. In March 1991, the military alliance component of the pact was dissolved and in July 1991, the last meeting of the political consultative body took place.

 

Warsaw Pact – May 14, 1955

The Cold War was a period of conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union who rivaled against each other and fought indirectly. Both countries were considered to be superpowers, a state with dominant position, and both countries fought for this position and influence. In the early years of the Cold War the United States tried to contain the spread of communist Russia. The United States sought to do this by strengthening their alliance with other nations and increase their military defense spreading. This resulted in an arms race between both sides in hopes to threaten one another. In July 1945, the United States denotated the first atomic bomb, a huge advantage over the Soviet Union. By August 1949, the Soviets had nuclear weapons of their own and soon after the U.S. started to develop even more powerful bombs. As the arms race continued and the tension grew stronger, the United States joined 11 other countries to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also known as NATO. The organization was an agreement between the countries to provide military support if there was an attack by another nation. In May of 1955 west Germany was admitted into NATO and the treaty organization served as an even bigger threat to the Soviet Union. In response to this the Warsaw Pact was “founded as a balance of power to NATO”[1]

warsaw 1

Political cartoon representing the rivalry between the Warsaw Pact and NATO

The Warsaw Pact was founded on May 14, 1955 in Warsaw, Poland. It was formally known as the Warsaw Treaty Organization or Treaty of Friendship. The pact was a defense treaty signed between the Soviet Union, Albania, Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria. The pact, similar to NATO, called on the members to defend any member attacked by another country. The Warsaw Pact was a step to strengthen the Soviet Union and it also set up a unified military command under Marshal Ivan S. Konev.

pact symbol

Warsaw Pact Symbol

Although the pact was originally intended to be a defensive alliance, it “soon became clear that the primary purpose of the pact was to reinforce communist dominance in eastern Europe.”[2]The Soviet Union used the Pact to contain popular dissent in its European satellites. This can be seen in both Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 when the Soviets invoked the pact to intervene in anticommunists revolutions and by the late 1980s, anti-communists movements throughout Eastern Europe began to dissolve the pact. Then in 1990 East Germany left the Warsaw Pact to reunite with West Germany, and not long after Poland and Czechoslovakia showed their desire to also withdraw. With the buildup of protests, an unstable economy and political situation, and other countries leaving, the Soviet Union knew what must happen. In March of 1991, Soviet military commanders gave up their control of Warsaw Pact forces and soon after the Pact’s committee met for a final time. At this time, they formally recognized the Warsaw Pact as dissolved.

By Michaela Leikin

 

Bibliography

“Cold War.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2015, pp. 253-258. Gale In Context: Biography, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX3611000171/BIC?u=seve27129&sid=BIC&xid=668c9a51. Accessed 28 May 2020.

I think the other guy just blinked. Photograph. https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/HistoryOfTheColdWar.

Logo of the Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance. Photograph. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Pact.

“Warsaw Pact Ends.” History. Accessed May 28, 2020. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/warsaw-pact-ends.

“The Warsaw Treaty Organization, 1955.” Office of the Historian. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1953-1960/warsaw-treaty.

[1] “Cold War.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2015, pp. 253-258. Gale In Context: Biography, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX3611000171/BIC?u=seve27129&sid=BIC&xid=668c9a51.

[2] “Warsaw Pact Ends,” History, accessed May 28, 2020, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/warsaw-pact-ends.