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Early Organizational Structure and Activities

Until the early 1960s, the Soviet Union used the Warsaw Pact more as a tool in East-West diplomacy than as a functioning political-military alliance. Under the leadership of General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Union sought to project a more flexible and less threatening image abroad and, toward this end, used the alliance's PCC to publicize its foreign policy initiatives and peace offensives, including frequent calls for the formation of an all-European collective security system to replace the continent's existing military alliances. The main result of Western acceptance of these disingenuous Soviet proposals would have been the removal of American troops from Europe, the weakening of ties among the Western states, and increasingly effective Soviet pressure on Western Europe. The Soviet Union also used the PCC to propose a nonaggression pact between NATO and the Warsaw Pact and the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in Central Europe.

In the first few years after 1955, little of the Warsaw Pact's activity was directed at building a multilateral military alliance. The Soviet Union concentrated primarily on making the Warsaw Pact a reliable instrument for controlling the East European allies. In fact, the putatively supranational military agencies of the Warsaw Pact were completely subordinate to a national agency of the Soviet Union. The Soviet General Staff in Moscow housed the alliance's Joint Command and Joint Staff and, through these organs, controlled the entire military apparatus of the Warsaw Pact as well as the allied armies.

Although the highest ranking officers of the alliance were supposed to be selected through the mutual agreement of its member states, the Soviets unilaterally appointed a first deputy Soviet minister of defense and first deputy chief of the Soviet General Staff to serve as Warsaw Pact commander in chief and chief of staff, respectively. While these two Soviet officers ranked below the Soviet minister of defense, they still outranked the ministers of defense in the non-Soviet Warsaw Pact (NSWP) countries. The Soviet General Staff also posted senior colonel generals as resident representatives of the Warsaw Pact commander in chief in all East European capitals. Serving with the "agreement of their host countries," these successors to the wartime and postwar Soviet advisers for the allied armies equaled the East European ministers of defense in rank and provided a point of contact for the commander in chief, Joint Command, and Soviet General Staff inside the national military establishments. They directed and monitored the military training and political indoctrination programs of the national armies to synchronize their development with the Soviet Army. The strict Soviet control of the Warsaw Pact's high military command positions, established at this early stage, clearly indicated the subordination of the East European allies to the Soviet Union.

In 1956 the Warsaw Pact member states admitted East Germany to the Joint Command and sanctioned the transformation of its Garrisoned People's Police into a full-fledged army. But the Soviet Union took no steps to integrate the allied armies into a multinational force. The Soviet Union organized only one joint Warsaw Pact military exercise and made no attempt to make the alliance functional before 1961 except through the incorporation of East European territory into the Soviet national air defense structure.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:44:58 ZULU