The Warsaw Pact History and Members

Member Countries of the Eastern Bloc Group

Map of Europe
Map of Europe showing NATO (blue) and the Warsaw Pact (red), as well as the size of the military in various member states ca. 1973. (Alphathon/Wikimedia Commons/CC ASA 3.0U)

The Warsaw Pact was established in 1955 after West Germany became a part of NATO. It was formally known as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance. The Warsaw Pact, made up of Central and Eastern European countries, was meant to counter the threat from the NATO countries.

Each country in the Warsaw Pact pledged to defend the others against any outside military threat. While the organization stated that each nation would respect the sovereignty and political independence of the others, each country was in some way controlled by the Soviet Union.

The pact dissolved at the end of the Cold War in 1991. 

History of the Pact

After World War II, the Soviet Union sought to control as much of Central and Eastern Europe as it could. In the 1950s, West Germany was rearmed and allowed to join NATO. The countries that bordered West Germany were fearful that it would again become a military power, as it had been just a few years earlier. This fear caused Czechoslovakia to attempt to create a security pact with Poland and East Germany. Eventually, seven countries came together to form the Warsaw Pact:

  • Albania (until 1968)
  • Bulgaria
  • Czechoslovakia
  • East Germany (until 1990)
  • Hungary
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • The Soviet Union

The Warsaw Pact lasted for 36 years. In all of that time, there was never a direct conflict between the organization and NATO. However, there were many proxy wars, especially between the Soviet Union and United States in places such as Korea and Vietnam.

Invasion Of Czechoslovakia

On Aug. 20, 1968, 250,000 Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia in what was known as Operation Danube. During the operation, 108 civilians were killed and another 500 were wounded by the invading troops. Only Albania and Romania refused to participate in the invasion. East Germany did not send troops to Czechoslovakia but only because Moscow ordered its troops to stay away.

Albania eventually left the Warsaw Pact because of the invasion.

The military action was an attempt by the Soviet Union to oust Czechoslovakia's Communist Party leader Alexander Dubcek whose plans to reform his country did not aline with the Soviet Union's wishes. Dubcek wanted to liberalize his nation and had many reformations plans, most of which he was unable to initiate. Before Dubcek was arrested during the invasion, he urged citizens not to resist militarily because he felt that presenting a military defense would have meant exposing the Czech and Slovak peoples to a senseless bloodbath. This sparked many nonviolent protests throughout the country. 

End of the Pact

Between 1989 and 1991, the Communist parties in most of the countries in the Warsaw Pact were ousted. Many of the Warsaw Pact's member nations considered the organization as essentially defunct in 1989 when none assisted Romania militarily during its violent revolution. The Warsaw Pact formally existed for another couple of years until 1991—just months before the USSR disbanded—when the organization was officially dissolved in Prague. 

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Rosenberg, Matt. "The Warsaw Pact History and Members." ThoughtCo, Feb. 26, 2018, thoughtco.com/warsaw-pact-countries-1435177. Rosenberg, Matt. (2018, February 26). The Warsaw Pact History and Members. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/warsaw-pact-countries-1435177 Rosenberg, Matt. "The Warsaw Pact History and Members." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/warsaw-pact-countries-1435177 (accessed May 24, 2018).