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The Cold War

Defence and deterrence

What was the Warsaw Pact?

The Warsaw Pact was a collective defence treaty established by the Soviet Union and seven other Soviet satellite states in Central and Eastern Europe:  Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania (Albania withdrew in 1968).

Formally known as the Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance, the Warsaw Pact was created on 14 May 1955, immediately after the accession of West Germany to the Alliance. It complemented the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, which was the regional economic organisation set up by the Soviet Union in January 1949 for the communist states of Central and Eastern Europe.

The Warsaw Pact embodied what was referred to as the Eastern bloc, while NATO and its member countries represented the Western bloc.

NATO and the Warsaw Pact were ideologically opposed and, over time, built up their own defences starting an arms race that lasted throughout the Cold War.

The Warsaw Pact was declared at an end on 25 February 1991 and the Czechoslovak President, Vaclav Havel, formally declared an end to it on 1 July 1991. Gorbachev’s policy of openness (Glasnost) and restructuring (Perestroika), together with other initiatives, opened the way for popular uprisings. The Berlin Wall fell in November 1989 and communist governments in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Romania and Bulgaria started to fall.

The break-up of the Warsaw Pact was shortly followed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.