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The Warsaw Pact administered both the political and the military activities of the Soviet alliance system in Eastern Europe. A series of changes beginning in 1969 gave the Warsaw Pact the structure it retained through the mid-1980s.

Political Organization

The general (first) secretaries of the communist and workers' parties and heads of state of the Warsaw Pact member states met in the PCC. The PCC provides a formal point of contact for the Soviet and East European leaders in addition to less formal bilateral meetings and visits. As the highest decision-making body of the Warsaw Pact, the PCC is charged with assessing international developments that could affect the security of the allied states and warrant the execution of the Warsaw Pact's collective self-defense provisions. In practice, however, the Soviet Union was unwilling to rely on the PCC to perform this function, fearing that Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Romania could use PCC meetings to oppose Soviet plans and policies. The PCC was also the main center for coordinating the foreign policy activities of the Warsaw Pact countries. Since the late 1960s, when several member states began to use the alliance structure to confront the Soviets and assert more independent foreign policies, the Soviet Union has had to bargain and negotiate to gain support for its foreign policy within Warsaw Pact councils.

In 1976 the PCC established the permanent Committee of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (CMFA) to regularize the previously ad hoc meetings of Soviet and East European representatives to the Warsaw Pact. Given the official task of preparing recommendations for and executing the decisions of the PCC, the CMFA and its permanent Joint Secretariat provided the Soviet Union an additional point of contact to establish a consensus among its allies on contentious issues. Less formal meetings of the deputy ministers of foreign affairs of the Warsaw Pact member states represented another layer of alliance coordination. If alliance problems can be resolved at these working levels, they will not erupt into embarrassing disputes between the Soviet and East European leaders at PCC meetings.

Military Organization

The Warsaw Pact's military organization was larger and more active than the alliance's political bodies. Several different organizations were responsible for implementing PCC directives on defense matters and developing the capabilities of the national armies that constitute the JAF. However, the principal task of the military organizations was to link the East European armies to the Soviet armed forces. The alliance's military agencies coordinate the training and mobilization of East European national forces assigned to the Warsaw Pact. In turn, these forces could be deployed in accordance with Soviet military strategy against an NSWP country or NATO.

Soviet control of the Warsaw Pact as a military alliance was scarcely veiled. The Warsaw Pact's JAF had no command structure, logistics network, air defense system, or operations directorate separate from the Soviet Ministry of Defense. The 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia demonstrated how easily control of the JAF could be transferred in wartime to the Soviet General Staff and Soviet field commanders. The dual roles of the Warsaw Pact commander in chief, who was a first deputy Soviet minister of defense, and the Warsaw Pact chief of staff, who was a first deputy chief of the Soviet General Staff, facilitate the transfer of Warsaw Pact forces to Soviet control. The subordination of the Warsaw Pact to the Soviet General Staff was also shown clearly in the Soviet military hierarchy. The chief of the Soviet General Staff was listed above the Warsaw Pact commander in chief in the Soviet order of precedence, even though both positions are filled by first deputy Soviet ministers of defense.

Ironically, the first innovations in the Warsaw Pact's structure since 1955 came after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, which had clearly underlined Soviet control of the alliance. At the 1969 PCC session in Budapest, the Soviet Union agreed to cosmetic alterations in the Warsaw Pact designed to address East European complaints about Soviet domination of the alliance. These changes included the establishment of the formal Committee of Ministers of Defense (CMD) and the Military Council as well as the addition of more non-Soviet officers to the Joint Command and the Joint Staff.

The CMD was the leading military body of the Warsaw Pact. In addition to the ministers of defense of the Warsaw Pact member states, the commander in chief and the chief of staff of the JAF were statutory members of the CMD. With its three seats on the CMD, the Soviet Union can exercise a working majority in the nine-member body with the votes of only two of its more loyal East European allies. The chairmanship of the CMD supposedly rotatef among the ministers of defense. In any event, the brief annual meetings of the CMD severely limitrf its work to pro forma pronouncements or narrow guidelines for the Joint Command, Military Council, and Joint Staff to follow.

The Joint Command developed the overall training plan for joint Warsaw Pact exercises and for the national armies to promote the assimilation of Soviet equipment and tactics. Headed by the Warsaw Pact's commander in chief, the Joint Command was divided into distinct Soviet and East European tiers. The deputy commanders in chief included Soviet and East European officers. The Soviet officers serving as deputy commanders in chief were specifically responsible for coordinating the East European navies and air forces with the corresponding Soviet service branches. The East European deputy commanders in chief were the deputy ministers of defense of the NSWP countries. While providing formal NSWP representation in the Joint Command, the East European deputies also assisted in the coordination of Soviet and non-Soviet forces. The commander in chief, deputy commanders in chief, and chief of staff of the JAF gathered in the Military Council on a semiannual basis to plan and evaluate operational and combat training. With the Warsaw Pact's commander in chief acting as chairman, the sessions of the Military Council rotated among the capitals of the Warsaw Pact countries.

The Joint Staff was the only standing Warsaw Pact military body and the official executive organ of the CMD, commander in chief, and Military Council. As such, it performed the bulk of the Warsaw Pact's work in the military realm. Like the Joint Command, the Joint Staff had both Soviet and East European officers. These non-Soviet officers also served as the principal link between the Soviet and East European armed forces. The Joint Staff organized all joint exercises and arranged multilateral meetings and contacts of Warsaw Pact military personnel at all levels.

The PCC's establishment of official CMD meetings, the Military Council, and the bifurcation of the Joint Command and Joint Staff allowed for greater formal East European representation, as well as more working-level positions for senior non-Soviet officers, in the alliance. Increased NSWP input into the alliance decision-making process ameliorated East European dissatisfaction with continued Soviet dominance of the Warsaw Pact and even facilitated the work of the JAF. However, a larger NSWP role in the alliance did not reduce actual Soviet control of the Warsaw Pact command structure.

The 1969 PCC meeting also approved the formation of two more Warsaw Pact military bodies, the Military Scientific-Technical Council and the Technical Committee. These innovations in the Warsaw Pact structure represented a Soviet attempt to harness NSWP weapons and military equipment production, which had greatly increased during the 1960s. The Military Scientific-Technical Council assumed responsibility for directing armaments research and development within the Warsaw Pact, while the Technical Committee coordinated standardization. Comecon's Military-Industrial Commission supervised NSWP military production facilities.

After 1969 the Soviet Union insisted on tighter Warsaw Pact military integration as the price for greater NSWP participation in alliance decision making. Under the pretext of directing Warsaw Pact programs and activities aimed at integration, officers from the Soviet Ministry of Defense penetrated the East European armed forces. Meetings between senior officers from the Soviet and East European main political administrations allowed the Soviets to monitor the loyalty of the national military establishments. Joint Warsaw Pact exercises afforded ample opportunity for the evaluation and selection of reliable East European officers for promotion to command positions in the field, the national military hierarchies, and the Joint Staff. Warsaw Pact military science conferences, including representatives from each NSWP general (main) staff, enabled the Soviets to check for signs that an East European ally was formulating a national strategy or developing military capabilities beyond Soviet control. In 1973 the deputy ministers of foreign affairs signed the "Convention on the Capacities, Privileges, and Immunities of the Staff and Other Administrative Organs of the Joint Armed Forces of the Warsaw Pact Member States," which established the principle of extraterritoriality for alliance agencies, legally sanctioned the efforts of these Soviet officers to penetrate the East European military establishments, and prevented any host government interference in their work. Moreover, the Warsaw Pact commander in chief still retained his resident representatives in the national ministries of defense as direct sources of information on the situation inside the allied armies.

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