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The Reliability of the Non-Soviet Warsaw Pact Armies

The Soviet Union counted on greater cooperation from its Warsaw Pact allies in a full-scale war with NATO than in intra- alliance policing actions. Nevertheless, the Soviets expected that a protracted war in Europe would strain the cohesion of the Warsaw Pact. This view may derive from the experience of World War II, in which Nazi Germany's weak alliance partners, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria, left the war early and eventually joined the Soviet side. A stalemate in a protracted European war could lead to unrest, endanger communist party control in Eastern Europe, and fracture the entire Soviet alliance system. NSWP reliability would also decline, requiring the Soviet Army to reassign its own forces to carry out unfulfilled NSWP functions or even to occupy a noncompliant ally's territory.

Continuing Soviet concern over the combat reliability of its East European allies influenced, to a great extent, the employment of NSWP forces under Soviet strategy. Soviet military leaders believed that the Warsaw Pact allies would be most likely to remain loyal if the Soviet Army engaged in a short, successful offensive against NATO, while deploying NSWP forces defensively. Under this scenario, the NSWP allies would absorb the brunt of NATO attacks against Soviet forces on East European territory. Fighting in Eastern Europe would reinforce the impression among the NSWP countries that their actions constituted a legitimate defense against outside attack. The Soviet Union would still have to be selective in deploying the allied armies offensively. For example, the Soviet Union would probably have elected to pit East German forces against non-German NATO troops along the central front. Other NSWP forces that the Soviet Union employed offensively would probably be interspersed with Soviet units on Soviet fronts to increase their reliability. The Soviet Union would not establish separate East European national fronts against NATO. Independent NSWP fronts would force the Soviet Union to rely too heavily on its allies to perform well in wartime. Moreover, independent East European fronts could serve as the basis for a territorial defense strategy and successful resistance to future Soviet policing actions in Eastern Europe.

Soviet concern over the reliability of its Warsaw Pact allies was also reflected in the alliance's military-technical policy, which was controlled by the Soviets. The Soviet Union has given the East European allies less modern, though still effective, weapons and equipment to keep their armies several steps behind the Soviet Army. The Soviets cannot modernize the East European armies without concomitantly improving their capability to resist Soviet intervention.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:45:01 ZULU