In 1990, the Warsaw Pact (ATS) ceased to exist, five years before the half-century anniversary. How possible at the present stage is an objective analysis of the activities of this once-powerful military-political organization and, more generally, a geopolitical project?
On the one hand, the ATS can not be called a great old tradition. Suffice it to say that the military structures of NATO that are unfolding in Eastern European countries use the Soviet legacy inherited by them, which to this day forms the basis of the weapons of our former allies. On the other hand, the political leaders who stood at the origins of the ATS and led it during the Cold War period have already gone into a different world. And the first question: did the Warsaw Pact ensure stability in Europe, or did it, on the contrary, play a destructive role?
Public opinion in the West, for obvious reasons, sees the ATS only in a negative light. In Russia, the situation is different. For liberal circles история ATS is associated exclusively with the events of 1968 of the year in Czechoslovakia and is perceived as the desire of the totalitarian regime to retain control over the socialist camp and in passing gain fear in the “free world”. Most of the society positively assesses the role of the Warsaw Pact, explaining the presence of Soviet troops in Eastern European countries with considerations of state security.
Why did the Soviet leadership create a powerful military grouping in Eastern Europe? The opinion of Western experts is well known: the Kremlin sought to spread its military and political influence throughout the world. A year after the creation of the Department of Internal Affairs, Khrushchev gave the western ambassadors the famous phrase: “We will bury you” (however, it was taken out of context). In the same 1956, the Soviet troops suppressed the Hungarian uprising, the USSR provided military support to Egypt in the struggle for the Suez Canal. And the West saw in Khrushchev’s ultimatum a threat of the use of nuclear against the European powers and Israel weapons.
But we must bear in mind that Hungary’s withdrawal from the Department of Internal Affairs could have become a precedent behind which there was a danger of the destruction of the entire military-political structure created by the USSR in the region. And then the expansion of NATO to the East would not begin at the end of the century, but half a century earlier, and there is no reason to expect that this would strengthen stability in Europe and in the world.
In addition, the ATS was created for six years later, NATO as a response step. The statements of the North Atlantic Alliance on guaranteeing the freedom and security of all its members in Europe and North America in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter were purely declarative. The aggression against Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya, the attempt to overthrow the legitimate regime in Syria, the desire to include in the orbit of influence the countries of the former USSR testify to the aggressive nature of NATO. The true goals of the bloc did not coincide in 1949 with the peace statements of its founders.
When creating the ATS, Moscow was guided solely by considerations of its own security. It was precisely the desire to prevent NATO from approaching the western borders of the USSR that led to a harsh reaction of the Kremlin to any attempts by the Warsaw Pact member states to withdraw from the organization. This should explain the introduction of troops to Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
Recall that a few years before the suppression of the Prague Spring, the United States was ready to invade Cuba to prevent the nuclear threat posed by the Soviet missiles stationed there. Similar considerations in 1968 were guided by the Kremlin, forcing Dubcek to resign.
Just look at the map to make sure that Czechoslovakia, even more than Hungary, was the cornerstone of the entire military ATS system. By sending troops into a neighboring country, the Soviet leadership did not seek to acquire foreign territories, but maintained a balance of power in Europe.
The judgments of those who believe that Prague, who has left ATS, would not have been the sphere of influence of the USA in the near future, are extremely naive. Yes, the statements of American diplomats testified at that time about the reluctance of Washington, who had not yet recovered from the Vietnamese adventure, to aggravate relations with Moscow because of Czechoslovakia. However, it was clear to military experts in the West and in the Soviet Union: Czechoslovakia is not Vietnam, so the Kremlin could not rule out that Prague would allow a NATO base to be located on its territory, close to our borders.
Note the very geographical position of Eastern European countries in many respects predetermines the nature of their foreign policy doctrines. This orientation is either towards the USSR (Russia) or towards the West. As is known, the ex-OVD countries chose the second option, having turned from the allies of the powerful eastern neighbor, who saw brothers in arms to them, into NATO satellites, into cannon fodder for the realization of the geopolitical efforts of the United States. Why so, the explanation is simple: the Slavs, like the Hungarians with the Romanians, do not belong to the Romano-Germanic world. Therefore, the alliance does not guarantee our former partners security in the event of a large-scale military conflict — rather, they will leave to the mercy of fate. Imagine how the Americans or the British shed blood for freedom, for example, Poland, is impossible.
In general, Western analysts view the activities of the Department of Internal Affairs in the light of the so-called Brezhnev doctrine, the key provisions of which were formulated overseas, and not in the USSR, although the Soviet leadership did not dispute its basic theses. The essence of the doctrine: the USSR reserves the right to military intervention in the life of any country - member of the Warsaw Pact, if the latter wishes to leave the organization. Note that in fact a similar provision is contained in the NATO Charter. This document states that if destabilization in one country poses a threat to others, the alliance has the right to military intervention.
General Margelov vs Black Colonels
The conclusion of the Kremlin’s desire to preserve the military balance in Europe can be confirmed by the opinion of A. A. Gromyko, who headed the Foreign Ministry for 28 years. This most experienced diplomat was opposed to any changes in the country's foreign policy, consistently advocating the maintenance of the status quo on the world stage. This position is quite logical, because, according to the son of the Minister Anatoly Gromyko, an objective analysis of the foreign policy of the Brezhnev cabinet is possible only if we take into account the so-called 22 syndrome of June: almost all Soviet leaders went through the Great Patriotic War and therefore tried their best to prevent the escalation of military tension in Europe.
A year before the entry of troops into Czechoslovakia, the countries participating in the internal affairs department conducted the Rhodope exercises, caused by the arrival of the "black colonels" in Greece - then there was a real danger of the junta invading southern Bulgaria. Maneuvers were led by the commander of the Airborne Forces Army General V.F. Margelov. The paratroopers were flown to the Rhodope Mountains by air, along with the heavy equipment and anti-tank weapons at their disposal, since the Soviet General Staff allowed the possibility of tank attacks of the Greek troops. Parts of the Marine Corps also landed with heavy weapons on the coast and made a 300-kilometer march to the training site, in which Romanian and Bulgarian units also took part. Without too much pathos, let’s say that elite Soviet units led by the legendary general demonstrated, firstly, the USSR’s readiness to defend the allies, which NATO’s old-timers are unlikely to repeat, as regards their newly minted members, and secondly, they showed high military training and mobility. Moreover, the actions of the Soviet units cannot be called window dressing, because after almost a decade the same 106th Airborne Division demonstrated excellent combat readiness in the mountains of Afghanistan.
In the same year, exercises were conducted in the USSR under the code name "Dnepr", covering the territory of the Belarusian, Kiev and Carpathian military districts. Here Moscow involved exclusively Soviet troops, but the defense ministers of the countries participating in the Department of Internal Affairs were invited. Thus, the exercises can be called an integral part of the Warsaw Pact activities. Their scale is evidenced by the fact that the leadership was exercised by the Minister of Defense A. A. Grechko.
We believe that the Rhodope maneuvers and exercises “Dnepr” became a serious deterrent for those American generals who in 1968 were ready to insist on giving Czechoslovakia more active support.
Our response to Reagan
In 70, the situation in Europe remained stable: neither NATO nor ATS took any hostile actions towards each other, perfectly realizing their futility from a military point of view. However, the situation changed in 1981, when Reagan became the president of the United States, who publicly called the Soviet Union the evil empire. In 1983, Americans deployed Pershing-2 and Tomahawk ballistic missiles in Western Europe. Both types of offensive weapons were equipped with thermonuclear ammunition. Flight time "Pershing" to the territory of the Urals was about 14 minutes.
Of course, the actions of the White House were declared as a defensive measure against the “aggressive designs” of the Kremlin. Were such concerns of Washington justified? In 1981, the countries participating in the ATS conducted “West-81” exercises, which were of operational and strategic nature and became the largest in the history of the Soviet Armed Forces in terms of the scale and number of troops attracted comparable to the offensive operations of the Great Patriotic War. Automated control systems and some types of high-precision weapons were tested for the first time, the landing of a massive assault force in the enemy rear was tested. The exercises were offensive in nature, but their strategic goal was precisely defensive - to show the West the power of the ATS, the ability to prevent both any NATO aggression and interference in the internal affairs of the socialist countries. Note that the exercises were conducted in a period of instability in Poland.
The following year we conducted the exercise “Shield-82”, called in Brussels the seven-hour nuclear war. The actions of ATS troops in the conditions of a thermonuclear conflict were practiced. Against the backdrop of Reagan’s aggressive statements and the prospects for deploying American missiles in Europe, Moscow has taken adequate steps to demonstrate the power of the Soviet Armed Forces. Cruise missiles were launched from the side of the Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers, the interceptor satellite was put into orbit, etc.
The demonstration of the USSR and its allies of military power, probably caused the opposite effect - Reagan saw in the actions of Moscow the desire to deliver a nuclear strike first. In 1983, NATO conducted exercises codenamed Able Archer 83 (“Experienced Shooter”). The latter, in turn, alarmed the Soviet leaders. In response, the Kremlin brought the Strategic Missile Forces into readiness No. 1, increased army groups in the GDR and Poland. For the first time since the Caribbean crisis of 1962, the world is on the verge of nuclear war. However, the equilibrium between NATO and ATS made the armed conflict in Europe senseless, which in many ways made it possible to preserve peace. More precisely, the nuclear conflict was becoming meaningless, and the meeting on the battlefield of the land armies of the two military-political blocs could have ended on the shores of the English Channel. Such a conclusion can be drawn from the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia. Even with overwhelming superiority, the alliance did not decide on a ground operation.
Alaska felt sorry
A natural question arises: would Reagan refuse to deploy nuclear missiles in Western Europe if we had not previously conducted large-scale exercises? Based on the doctrinal installations of the White House, the president’s aggressive rhetoric that followed a decade of NATO expansion to the East, a direct invasion of Iraq, it seems that the United States would deploy its missiles anyway.
One could argue: why, focusing on the USSR’s aspiration by creating an ATS to preserve stability in Europe, in fact, this wish is refused to Western countries - NATO members. Yes, probably creating the North Atlantic alliance, the leading European countries were guided primarily by defensive tasks, especially since the power of the Soviet Armed Forces even without taking into account the allies in the socialist bloc in aggregate significantly exceeded the military potential of England and especially France. Concerned about the preservation of a decaying empire and exhausted by the Second World War, Britain, of course, could not bear aggressive designs against the USSR - the Unthinkable plan should hardly be considered seriously, since London had no means or resources for its implementation. The same can be said about France, which in general did not find the strength and desire to defend its own independence in 1940, and the pro-Soviet sentiments in the Fourth Republic of the postwar period were very strong. However, the United States played a key role in NATO activities. In Washington, in the middle of the 20th century, they did not hide their aggressive intentions towards the USSR.
Suffice it to say that in the Pentagon year 1948 a plan of war against the USSR was developed, codenamed Troyan. American strategists expected to hit 133 with nuclear bombs on 70 Soviet cities. In this case, the US military leaders as the main goal set the task to destroy the civilian population, the main economic centers and military facilities of the Soviet Union.
The named plan was not the only one. The next year, the Pentagon developed 1949, a Dropshot (Short Strike), according to which it was planned to drop atomic 300 atomic bombs on 100 Soviet cities at the first stage, of which 25 to Moscow, 22 to Leningrad, 10 to Sverdlovsk, 8 - to Kiev, 5 - to Dnepropetrovsk, 2 - to Lviv, etc. As a result, the USSR’s irretrievable losses would have been about 60 million people, and with further military operations, more than 100 million.
This plan partially lost its relevance only in 1956, when Soviet long-range aircraft aviation were able to refuel in the air to reach US territory and launch a nuclear strike. However, the scale of possible losses was still incommensurable. Nuclear parity between the USSR and the USA was achieved only in the 70s.
In this situation, the creation by the Kremlin of a powerful military-political bloc in Eastern Europe became at least a relative guarantor of the fact that the Americans would not dare to use atomic weapons against us, since otherwise their allies would be under the blows of the Soviet troops. Washington didn’t want to lose Alaska, and in the event of a full-scale conflict with the Soviet Union, it would hardly have been possible to keep it.
The same thing that the United States not only hatched aggressive plans towards the USSR as a hostile system, but also sought to maximize the military and economic weakening of Russia as an alien civilization, of a different cultural and historical type, if expressed in the language of Nikolai Danilevsky overseas politicians. Zbigniew Brzezinski, after the end of the Cold War, stressed: “Do not be mistaken: the struggle against the USSR was in fact a struggle against Russia, whatever its name”.