The Warsaw Pact: A Union No Longer

This post was awarded a “red star” from the editorial team.

The Warsaw Pact Logo

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a long and complex process due to economic, social, and political reasons. Therefore, when the Warsaw Pact was dissolved on February 25, 1991, the Soviet Union did not go out with a loud bang, but the feeble pop of a balloon.

The Warsaw Pact was drawn up in May 1955. The signers of the Pact included the “USSR, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania.” The formation of the pact came after the Federal Republic of Germany joined NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). In the introduction to the Pact, the document states that Western Germany’s acceptance into NATO was a threat “to the national security of peaceable states.” Therefore it was the duty of the signers of the pact to “take necessary measures to safeguard their security and in the interests of preserving peace in Europe.” The pact seems to show the fear many communist countries had that West Germany’s involvement with NATO would lead to another war. The Warsaw Pact appeared to be for the good of Europe. However, this pact was likely an attempt by the USSR to have military control in Eastern and Central Europe. For example, in Article 4 of the Pact, it states that if an armed event should occur against one of the Parties to the Pact, each of the countries who signed should “come to the assistance of the state or states attacked with all such means as it deems necessary, including armed force.” However, this pact became void before it was officially dissolved as many of the countries involved experienced upheaval in 1989-1991 as their Communist governments were toppled.

“Atop the Berlin Wall (1989)”

There were many reasons that the Warsaw Pact was dissolved and the Soviet Union fell. Mikhail Gorbachev played a key role in the fall. As Gorbachev climbed the ladder of the Communist Party and gained a great deal of power by the 1980’s, his policies and reforms for the Soviet Union inadvertently ended the Union. Two of Gorbachev’s policies were known as glasnost and perestroika. Glasnost called for openness in the government in the Soviet Union (Freeze, 459). Perestroika represented the restructuring of the Soviet Union, specifically the political and economic system. Perestroika “unleashed force and expectations even as it failed to satisfy minimal requirements” (Freeze, 451). Gorbachev’s policies were an attempt to restructure the Soviet Union to follow the West’s “model of democracy and free markets” (Freeze, 451). This development led to difficult times for the Soviet Union as the economy suffered. Glasnost allowed for the press to undermine Gorbachev’s authority and that of the regime (Freeze, 459). Perestroika gave way to more demand for freedom and autonomy within the Soviet Union (Freeze, 461-462). It also sparked nationalism and even calls for independence (Freeze, 461-462). As tension and nationalist movements increased in 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall “marked the end of the Soviet bloc” (Freeze, 462). The Warsaw Pact was already a moot point by this time.

RIAN archive 850809 General Secretary of the CPSU CC M. Gorbachev (crop).jpg

Mikhail Gorbachev

The policies enacted by Gorbachev in the 1980’s aided in the toppling of the communist regime in the Soviet Union and other communist countries fell like dominoes. Therefore, by the time the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, communism was quickly disappearing. It is understandable to see why this event did not garner that much attention. In a New York Times article, “Warsaw Pact Agrees to Dissolve Its Military Alliance by March 31,” the author noted that the Warsaw Pact was already disabled, for “its Eastern European members . . . cut themselves loose from Moscow one by one.” Therefore, this article shows how the Warsaw Pact had no authority when it was dissolved. A Soviet article sadly notes that the Soviet Union has lost its “friends” and is entering a time of turmoil. The article stated that Soviet Union will have to question who they are and how to move forward.

The Warsaw Pact dissolution was not a surprise when it occurred, but that does not mean that struggle was over in Eastern Europe. Russia continued to go through a severe economic crisis and uncertainty in the state’s identity.

Citation:

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

“1991: The Warsaw Pact Dissolves.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&show=&SubjectID=1991warsaw&ArticleID=&Year=1991.

“The Warsaw Security Pact: May 14, 1955.” Lillian Goldman Law Library. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/warsaw.asp.

“Warsaw Pact.” Wikipedia. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Pact.

“Perestroika.” Wikipedia. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perestroika.

Bohlen, Celestine. “Warsaw Pact Agrees to Dissolve its Military Alliance by March 31.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Feb 26, 1991. http://ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/108834344?accountid=14826.

Poklad, B. “Act of Goodwill Goes Unanswered. Warsaw Pact Abolished, NATO Closes Ranks.” The Current Digest of the Russian Press 33, no.43 (September  18, 1991): 30. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13538274.

Warsaw Pact Logo Image retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Pact.

Berlin Wall Image retrieved from: http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1991warsaw&Year=1991&navi=byYear.

Mikhail Gorbachev Image retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail Gorbachev.

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Warsaw Pact: A Union No Longer

  1. jenniferh says:

    Good post! I like how you intertwine the dissolution of the Warsaw pact with the steps Gorbachev took that caused the collapse of the Soviet Union.

  2. mikegancio says:

    Well done. As you did a nice job of pointing out, by the time the Warsaw Pact actually dissolved it was pretty much a foregone conclusion among the international community. It may not have been a surprise but it does seem really ironic for what was once the most powerful rival of the US military and NATO to go down so quietly.

  3. rkw15 says:

    Nice post! I always find it fascinating how the USSR did things like the Warsaw Pact in response to something the West does. Russia still kinda does it today. They get upset when one of the former post communist states tries to join a western alliance.

    • jslattery says:

      Right! Russia has made the claim that they are in Ukraine to for their own security. I don’t know if Putin actually believes that someone could invade Russia again, but he definitely wants the Russian people to believe that.

  4. A. Nelson says:

    The research you did for this post is really impressive, and I especially like the way you juxtapose the article from the Western press with the Soviet newspaper article. It’s interesting to see how these issues (about the intersection between markets, strategic alliances and different political systems) have re-emerged in recent months.

  5. A. Nelson says:

    Also — this is such a great post. Could you take a quick look at the first couple of sentences and iron out some of the grammatical kinks?

  6. annapope says:

    Very well written, well supported post. The way you structured and defined the events following the signing of the Warsaw Pact in 1955 cleared up my personal points of confusion about its dissolution.

  7. kellylc says:

    Dr. Nelson, thank you for pointing out my grammatical errors. I was so happy to find so much information that I forgot to proofread!

  8. Alex Apollonio says:

    Very good overview of the rise and fall of the Warsaw Pact. While one reason for its existence was Stalin’s paranoia and desire to have a buffer between him and the west, it really was only logical that the eastern bloc would find a way to respond to NATO. In the decades after World War II, the fear of a third world war dominated Europe, and no one wanted to be left alone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *