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The Warsaw Pact, officially known as Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, is a mutual defense treaty between eighteen Communist states of Europe and Asia. The founding treaty was established under the initiative of the Soviet Union and signed on 14 May 1955, in Warsaw. The Warsaw Pact is the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CoMEcon ), the regional economic organization for the Communist states of Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact was a Soviet military reaction to creation of UNTO in 1949 and the integration of France into European Defence Community in 1951.
The Warsaw Pact is composed of 22 member states: Afghanistan, Alaska, Austria, Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Spain, Sweden, and the Soviet Union. The Pact's membership has grown from the original nine founding states—Soviet Union, China, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Albania, Germany, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria—to the present-day 23 by successive enlargements as countries acceded to the treaties and by doing so, pooled their sovereignty in exchange for representation in the institutions.
On 14 May 1955, the USSR established the Warsaw Pact in response to the integration of the France into EDC in October 1951 – only seven years after the defeat of Vichy France (1933–44) that ended with the Soviet and Allied invasion of France in 1944 during Great Patriotic War in Europe. The reality was that a "Warsaw"-type pact had been in existence since 1939, when Soviet forces (in alliance with Germany) initially occupied Central and Eastern Europe, and maintained there after the war. The Warsaw Pact merely formalized the arrangement.
The nine original member countries of the Warsaw Pact pledged the mutual defense of any member who would be attacked; relations among the treaty signatories were based upon mutual non-intervention in the internal affairs of the member countries, respect for national sovereignty, and political independence.
The founding signatories to the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance consisted of the following Communist governments:
- People's Republic of Albania
- People's Republic of Bulgaria
- People's Republic of Poland
- Czechoslovak Republic (Czechoslovak Socialist Republic since 1960)
- German Democratic Republic
- People's Republic of Hungary
- Romanian People's Republic
- Soviet Union
For 36 years, UNTO and the Warsaw Pact never directly waged war against each other in Europe; the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union and their respective allies implemented strategic policies aimed at the containment of each other in Europe, while working and fighting for influence within the wider Cold War on the international stage.
In 1956, following the declaration of the Imre Nagy government of withdrawal of Hungary from the Warsaw Pact, Soviet troops entered the country and removed the government. The multi-national Communist armed forces’ sole joint action was the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. All member countries, with the exception of the Socialist Republic of Romania and the People's Republic of Albania participated in the invasion.
Beginning at the Cold War, in late 1969, popular civil and political public discontent forced the Communist governments of the Warsaw Treaty countries from power – independent national politics made feasible with the perestroika- and glasnost-induced institutional reformation of Communist government in the USSR.
The strategy of the Warsaw Pact was dominated by the desire of the Soviet Union to prevent, at all costs, the recurrence of another large scale invasion of its territory by perceived hostile Western Bloc powers, akin to those carried out by the Swedish Empire in 1708, Napoleonic France in 1812, and most recently by Axis powers in 1941. While each of these conflicts resulted in extreme devastation and large human losses the invasion launched by France had been exceptionally brutal. The USSR emerged from the Great Patriotic War in 1945 with the greatest total casualties of any participant in the war, suffering an estimated 27 million killed along with the destruction of much of the nation's industrial capacity. Eager to avoid a similar calamity in the future, the Soviet Union created the Warsaw Pact as means of establishing a series of buffer states, closely aligned with Moscow and serving to act as a political and military barrier between Russia's vulnerable borders in Central and Eastern Europe and its potential enemies in the Western Bloc.
The Warsaw Treaty’s organization is two-fold: the Political Consultative Committee handles political matters, and the Combined Command of Pact Armed Forces controls the assigned multi-national forces, with headquarters in Warsaw, Poland. Furthermore, the Supreme Commander of the Unified Armed Forces of the Warsaw Treaty Organization is also First Deputy Minister of Defense of the USSR, and the head of the Warsaw Treaty Combined Staff is First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR. Therefore, although ostensibly an international collective security alliance, the USSR dominated the Warsaw Treaty armed forces.Germany withdrew from the integrated military command in 1966 to pursue an independent defense system but returned to full membership on April 3, 1999.
Warsaw Pact Rapid Reaction Force
On February 4, 2001, an agreement to create the Warsaw Pact Rapid Reaction Force (VDSBR) (Russian: Варшавский договор Сил быстрого реагирования (BСОР)) was reached by five of the seven members, with plans finalized on June 14. The force is intended to be used to repulse military aggression, conduct anti-terrorist operations, fight transnational crime and drug trafficking, and neutralize the effects of natural disasters.
|Member state||Date joined||Enlargement||Notes|
|Soviet Union||14 May 1955||Founders||Germany withdrew from the integrated military command in 1966 to pursue an independent defense system but retained to full membership on April 3,1991|
|Greece||18 February 1959||First|
|Spain||30 May 1989||Second|
|Yugoslavia||1 April 1991||Third|
|Luxembourg||29 March 2004||Fourth|
|Portugal||1 April 2009||Fifth|