Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin believed that organizing a buffer zone of satellite countries will protect Russia from Western invasion. He realized this vision through the Warsaw Pact, which Russia and six other Eastern European countries signed on May 14, 1955. But the Soviet Union simply used this treaty to exert political, economic and military control over Eastern Europe, resulting in numerous revolts from the latter. The Soviet Domination of Eastern Europe
The Warsaw Pact was believed to be the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe’s countermeasure to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (LCWeb2, 2008). However, this treaty ended up becoming “one of the Soviet Union’s primary mechanisms for keeping its East European allies under its political and military control” (LCWeb2, 2008). Under the guise of “collective decisions and actions,” (LCWeb2, 2008) the Soviet Union was able to interfere in Eastern Europe’s political, economic and military affairs, establishing its domination over the latter in the process (LCWeb2, 2008).
Pre-Warsaw Pact Soviet Interference The Soviet Union had already been using Eastern Europe to protect its security interests even before the establishment of the Warsaw Pact (LCWeb2, 2008). The Red Army first wielded political and military ascendancy over the region while liberating it from Nazi Germany during World War II (LCWeb2, 2008). After the war, Russia focused on how to turn Eastern Europe into the former’s safeguard against Western “attacks” and ideologies (LCWeb2, 2008).
It was said that Russia’s goal of completely dominating Eastern Europe “became second only to defense of the homeland in the hierarchy of Soviet security priorities” (LCWeb2, 2008). After World War II Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Poland, significant portions of Czechoslovakia and eastern Germany were already under the Red Army at the close of World War II (LCWeb2, 2008). In order to extend its military presence in these territories, the Soviet Union engaged them in twenty-year formal agreements that will supposedly promote friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance (LCWeb2, 2008).
The existence of its armed forces in the above-mentioned Soviet satellite states is the only way for Russia to hold on to Eastern Europe – the respective governments of these countries relied entirely on Soviet military force to keep themselves in power (LCWeb2, 2008). The Price of “Assistance” As soon as the Soviet Union secured its military actualization in Eastern Europe, it immediately proceeded to develop and keep a close watch on political loyalty in the region (LCWeb2, 2008). Key positions in the military were assigned to loyal Eastern European communist party members, regardless of their capability to handle them (LCWeb2, 2008).
Eastern European soldiers were also required to use Soviet military tanks and uniforms instead of their country’s own military customs and practices (LCWeb2, 2008). Furthermore, the defense ministries of all Eastern European countries had to be patterned after the Soviet Union’s Main Political Directorate of the Soviet Army and Navy (LCWeb, 2008). The Warsaw Pact Russia, along with Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania, signed the Warsaw Pact in Warsaw, Poland on May 14, 1955 (MSN Encarta, 2007).
The Warsaw Pact (originally known as the Warsaw Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance) included the following provisions: a) The treaty would function as “collective self-defense of the member states against external aggression,” in accordance to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter (LCWeb2, 2008); b) The signatories would have a relationsip that is based on “total equality, mutual noninterference in internal affairs, and respect for national sovereignty and independence” (LCWeb2, 2008); c) The Political Consultative Committee (PCC) is the highest decision-making body in the alliance (LCWeb2, 2008);
d) The Joint Command is responsible for “(organizing) the actual defense of the Warsaw Pact member states” (LCWeb2, 2008). The Joint Staff, meanwhile, is composed of “the representatives of the general (main) staffs of all its member states” (LCWeb2, 2008); e) The deputies of the Warsaw Pact commander-in-chief are the national deputy ministers of defense of the member countries (LCWeb2, 2008). The Warsaw Pact was effective for 20 years and was automatically renewable for another ten years, as long as all of its members seceded from renouncing the treaty before the 20-year-period was up (LCWeb2, 2008).
It also arrogantly claimed that it will disband as soon as NATO or any East-West agreement on collective security in Europe was dissolved (LCWeb2, 2008). Opposition to Soviet Domination During the Twentieth Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1956, Nikita Khrushchev condemned in his “secret speech” the corruption, lawlessness and violence of the Stalin era (LCWeb, 2008). He wanted to establish the legitimacy of communist party rule on its capacity to look after the people’s welfare and not on an iron fist (LCWeb2, 2008).
The “de-Stalinization” of the entire Soviet Union soon followed as a result (LCWeb2, 2008). The “De-Stalinization” of the Soviet Union Stalinist leaders of Poland and Hungary were replaced with popular communist party figures (LCWeb2, 2008). Warsaw Pact member countries were granted semiautonomy to lessen the impact of the Soviet domination of the treaty (LCWeb2, 2008). Eastern European military customs and practices were restored (LCWeb, 2008). Military appointments were finally based on merit instead of on political affiliations (LCWeb2, 2008).
Military instruction focused more on military training instead of on political indoctrination (LCWeb2, 2008). Lastly, Soviet military officers and advisers that were based in Eastern Europe were recalled back to Russia (LCWeb2, 2008). Eastern European Uprisings against Soviet Domination By October 1956, the communist parties of Hungary and Poland were no longer able to keep the “de-Stalinization” of their countries in check (LCWeb2, 2008). Hence, the cohesiveness of the Soviet satellite states was threatened (LCWeb2, 2008). In addition, the integrity of the Warsaw Pact was compromised (LCWeb2, 2008).
The Polish October. In October 1956, the Polish People’s Army and the Polish United Workers’ Party (led by moderate Wladyslaw Gomulka) protested Soviet interference in Poland’s internal affairs (LCWeb2, 2008). To put an end to the rioting, Gomulka proposed that the Polish United Workers’ Party should maintain full control of the Polish government while Russia can only intervene in Poland’s external affairs (LCWeb2, 2008). The Polish October was said to have forced the Soviet Union to limit its requirements for its Eastern European satellite states to just the following:
a) They should uphold the leading role of the communist party in society, and (LCWeb2, 2008) b) They should remain members of the Warsaw Pact (LCWeb2, 2008). The Hungarian Revolution. In sharp contrast, the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 called for Hungary’s total independence from the Soviet Union (LCWeb2, 2008). To achieve this goal, the country’s new communist party leader, Irme Nagy, decided to remove Hungrary from the Warsaw Pact and cut its ties with the Soviet Union (LCWeb2, 2008). The Soviet Union retaliated by sending 200,000 soldiers to crush the Hungarian Revolution, resulting in 25,000 dead Hungarians (LCWeb2, 2008).
The Soviet Union also practically abolished the Hungarian People’s Army and subjected the remaining units to political indoctrination (LCWeb2, 2008). The Soviet Union also increased the number of its troops in Hungary and made the latter sign an agreement that will allow Russian military forces to permanently remain in the country (LCWeb2, 2008). The Prague Spring. Although Czechoslovak communist regime leader Alexander Dubcek openly declared that Czechoslovakia will remain a member of the Warsaw Pact, his domestic liberalization program was viewed as a threat by the Soviet Union (LCWeb2, 2008).
While in power, Dubeck promoted liberalization and ideological freedom in Czechoslovakia (LCWeb2, 2008). Twenty-three Soviet divisions overran Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1968 (LCWeb2, 2008). After the invasion, the Soviet Union replaced the country’s incumbent communist party leadership with a more compliant one (LCWeb2, 2008). For the first time in Czechoslovakian history, Soviet military troops were permanently installed in the country – five Soviet divisions that will “protect” it from “future imperialist attacks” (LCWeb2, 2008). Conclusion
The aforementioned revolts in Eastern Europe showed the futility of the Soviet Union’s attempt to control the entire region through the Warsaw Pact. Furthermore, the Warsaw Pact unmasked the hypocrisy of Soviet rule. It must be noted that the Russians embraced Communism to eliminate oppression in their land. But by attempting to control other countries just to protect itself from perceived threats, they have just shown that they were no different from the despotic nobles that they have overthrown.
Library of Congress. (2008). Appendix C: The Warsaw Pact – Soviet Union. Retrieved April 15, 2008, from http://lcweb2. loc. gov/frd/cs/soviet_union/su_appnc. html MSN Encarta. (2007). Warsaw Pact. Retrieved April 15, 2008, from http://encarta. msn. com/encyclopedia_761569852/warsaw_pact. html Warsaw-Life. com. (2008). The Warsaw Pact. Retrieved April 15, 2008, from http://www. warsaw-life. com/poland/warsaw-pact Scott, C. J. SocyBerty. (2007, October 15). Post WWII Soviet Union Timeline. Retrieved April 15, 2008, from http://www. socyberty. com/History/ Post-WWII-Soviet-Union-Timeline. 51839