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The Internal Function of the Warsaw Pact

Although Khrushchev invoked the terms of the Warsaw Pact as a justification for the Soviet invasion of Hungary, the action was in no sense a cooperative allied effort. In the early 1960s, however, the Soviets took steps to turn the alliance's Joint Armed Forces (JAF) into a multinational invasion force. In the future, an appeal to the Warsaw Pact's collective self-defense provisions and the participation of allied forces would put a multilateral cover over unilateral Soviet interventions to keep errant member states in the alliance and their communist parties in power. The Soviet Union sought to legitimize its future policing actions by presenting them as the product of joint Warsaw Pact decisions. In this way, the Soviets hoped to deflect the kind of direct international criticism they were subjected to after the invasion of Hungary. However, such internal deployments were clearly contrary to the Warsaw Pact's rule of mutual noninterference in domestic affairs and conflicted with the alliance's declared purpose of collective self-defense against external aggression. To circumvent this semantic difficulty, the Soviets merely redefined external aggression to include any spontaneous anti-Soviet, anticommunist uprising in an allied state. Discarding domestic grievances as a possible cause, the Soviet Union declared that such outbreaks were a result of imperialist provocations and thereby constituted external aggression.

In the 1960s, the Soviet Union began to prepare the Warsaw Pact for its internal function of keeping the NSWP member states within the alliance. The Soviet Union took a series of steps to transform the Warsaw Pact into its intra-alliance intervention force. Although it had previously worked with the East European military establishments on a bilateral basis, the Soviet Union started to integrate the national armies under the Warsaw Pact framework. Marshal of the Soviet Union Andrei Grechko, who became commander in chief of the alliance in 1960, was uniquely qualified to serve in his post. During World War II, he commanded a Soviet Army group that included significant Polish and Czechoslovak units. Beginning in 1961, Grechko made joint military exercises between Soviet forces and the allied national armies the primary focus of Warsaw Pact military activities.

The Soviet Union arranged these joint exercises to prevent any NSWP member state from fully controlling its national army and to reduce the possibility that an East European regime could successfully resist Soviet domination and pursue independent policies. The Soviet-organized series of joint Warsaw Pact exercises was intended to prevent other East European national command authorities from following the example of Yugoslavia and Albania and adopting a territorial defense strategy. Developed in the Yugoslav and Albanian partisan struggles of World War II, territorial defense entailed a mobilization of the entire population for a prolonged guerrilla war against an intervening power. Under this strategy, the national communist party leadership would maintain its integrity to direct the resistance, seek international support for the country's defense, and keep an invader from replacing it with a more compliant regime.

Territorial defense deterred invasions by threatening considerable opposition and enabled Yugoslavia and Albania to assert their independence from the Soviet Union. By training and integrating the remaining allied armies in joint exercises for operations only within a multinational force, however, the Soviet Union reduced the ability of the other East European countries to conduct military actions independent of Soviet control or to hinder a Soviet invasion, as Poland and Hungary had done in October 1956.

Large-scale multilateral exercises provided opportunities for Soviet officers to command troops of different nationalities and trained East European national units to take orders from the Warsaw Pact or Soviet command structure. Including Soviet troops stationed in the NSWP countries and the western military districts of the Soviet Union, joint maneuvers drilled Soviet Army forces for rapid, massive invasions of allied countries with the symbolic participation of NSWP units. Besides turning the allied armies into a multinational invasion force for controlling Eastern Europe, joint exercises also gave the Warsaw Pact armies greater capabilities for a coalition war against NATO. In the early 1960s, the Soviet Union modernized the NSWP armies with T-54 and T-55 tanks, self-propelled artillery, short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) equipped with conventional warheads, and MiG-21 and Su-7 ground attack fighter aircraft. The Soviet Union completed the mechanization of East European infantry divisions, and these new motorized rifle divisions trained with the Soviet Army for combined arms combat in a nuclear environment. These changes greatly increased the military value and effectiveness of the NSWP forces. In the early 1960s, the Soviet Union gave the East European armies their first real supporting role in its European theater operations.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:44:59 ZULU