May 14, 2005


The Warsaw Pact, gone with a whimper (Malcolm Byrne and Vojtech Mastny, MAY 14, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

Fifty years ago, with great fanfare in the Soviet bloc, the Warsaw Pact came into being. During its 36 years, it became one of the most feared military machines in history, the embodiment of international Communist aggression, and the sword of Damocles threatening World War III.

But fearsome as it appeared in the eyes of the West - and indeed in the experiences of millions of citizens of the Communist countries - was the Warsaw Pact ultimately as dangerous as its image suggested? With the availability of new documents from the archives of the pact's former members, answers to such questions are starting to appear. [...]

The Warsaw Pact unquestionably possessed awesome military power, and Western governments were right to prepare for facing it. But the declassified record depicts an array of weaknesses that would have blunted that power in unpredictable ways that gave its managers reason to pause.

It was run by communists and depended on communist-made armaments--it was a joke.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 14, 2005 6:56 AM

A good friend of mine who is a Ukrainian immigrant was a tank driver in the Red Army stationed in East Germany. Based on his hilarious recollections of his time there one would have to wonder what the defection rate to the West would have been had it ever came to a confrontation.

Posted by: MB at May 14, 2005 11:25 AM

NATO should be next.

Posted by: Genecis at May 14, 2005 12:28 PM

We always knew that they were quite beatable conventionally. The threat was always nuclear terror, which we overcame in the only possible way, by superior terror.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 14, 2005 12:45 PM

Russia is never as strong as it looks, and Russia is never as weak as it looks.

Posted by: Brandon at May 14, 2005 2:35 PM

We had trouble with our NATO allies, but nobody who was dragooned into the Warsaw Pact would have backed the Soviets with the possible exception of Bulgaria.

An old chessplaying buddy of mine is a realtor who was born in Poland. His family fled in the 60s and he was raised here. But he went back to the village where he was born sometimes. There was a Soviet military base near the village so one night he snuck out and switched the road signs directing people to the base or to the village. He got arrested and taken to the village police station. Once there, the Polish police, in the presence of the Soviet military, really yelled and screamed at him, threatening him with jail or worse. The Soviets, satisfied, left. Then, the Polish Communist police chief of the village looked at him and said, 'Jan, we knew it was you because only the American would have the balls to do that. It was really, really funny, and we all had a good laugh and those SOBs deserved to be driving around lost. But, please, don't do it again, because we'll get in trouble.'

The hatred for the Soviets was pretty much universal in the Warsaw Pact and would have been a real problem for them if there were a land war.

Posted by: bart at May 14, 2005 6:24 PM