In 1955, when the United States and other NATO members decided to include West Germany as a member of the organization and made way for the nation to remilitarize, the move was perceived as a direct threat by erstwhile USSR and the communist bloc. The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, popularly called Warsaw Pact, signed in 1955, came as a natural consequence. With the pact the communist nations pledged mutual cooperation and defense alliance. The Warsaw Pact dominated the political scenario in the communist world (namely Eastern Europe) from 1955 till it was taken apart and dissolved by the remaining members in Prague on July 1, 1991.
In May 1955, the Warsaw Pact – an accord of military, economic, and socio-cultural support and alliance – was signed by the major communist nations: People’s Republic of Albania (withheld support in 1962 and formally withdrew in 1968), the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the Czechoslovak Republic (Czechoslovak Socialist Republic since 1960), the German Democratic Republic (withdrew in September 1990), the People’s Republic of Hungary, the People’s Republic of Poland (withdrew on January 1, 1990), the People’s Republic of Romania, and the Soviet Union. The pact came as a conclusion to a three day conference in the capital of Poland, Warsaw. Yugoslavia was the only European Communist state to be excluded from the pact. Yugoslavia had previously been excluded from Cominform, the Communist information agency, in 1948 for refusing to recognize the lead of the Soviet Union. On May 14, 1955, official announcements came from both Warsaw and Moscow that the Soviet Prime Minister, Marshal Nikolai Aleksandrovich Bulganin, and the leaders of the other signatory countries approved of the alliance.
The Warsaw Pact came as the major Communist counteraction to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). In early May 1955, following a prolonged round of talks in Paris, the US and other leading NATO members had agreed to include West Germany, thus allowing the nation to re-arm. In the course of his Warsaw speech, Marshal Bulganin said that the USA, Britain, and France had initiated a concerning move by allowing West Germany to re-arm and turning it into “the principal hotbed of the danger of war in Europe”.
While the pact generally assured that the members would “strive for the adoption…of effective measures for universal reduction of armaments and prohibition of atomic, hydrogen and other weapons of mass destruction”, it came to be viewed as a strategic military alliance and a potent militaristic opposition to the rise of American capitalistic dominance. The members agreed to “consult with one another whenever, in the opinion of any one of them, a threat of armed attack on one or more of the Parties to the Treaty has arisen, in order to ensure joint defence and the maintenance of peace and security.” The signing of the Warsaw Pact was viewed as a symbol of communist and Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe. The alliance, however, grew to become a means to form and toughen military powers throughout the Eastern European countries which were signatories.
The treaty was originally designed to bind the countries in an alliance for a period of twenty years and then an additional ten years following that, provided that that none of the signatory members dropped out of the alliance. In 1962, Albania withheld support and stopped participating in the collective actions of the alliance and formally withdrew in 1968. The pact became an effective tool for the Soviet to keep its allies under a close watch in terms of international relations and military actions.
The nerve center of the Warsaw Pact – the two committees which deliberated and performed all actions of the alliance – was the Unified Command of Pact Armed Forces and the Political Consultative Committee. Both the bodies were based in Moscow and were led by Soviet leaders. This was one of the primary conditions of the alliance, set forth to ensure continual Soviet dominance. While the former controlled the military activities of the alliance, the latter controlled all the other policies and actions.
For the greater part of its duration, the Soviet Union held considerable control and exercised the most power in Eastern Bloc as a result of the Warsaw Pact. This, however, saw a sharp decline in 1989 and 1990 due to the fall in Communist following. By 1990, Hungary decided to withdraw its participation in the military functions of the Warsaw Pact and also announced its intention to exit the pact by the following year. Poland and Czechoslovakia also determined to leave the pact. Following the German reunification, East Germany also withdrew from the pact and the alliance in 1990. By 1991, the pact remained a mere shadow and had outrun its function, the members decreed. The six remaining members met in Prague and decided to formally end the Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance.
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