The Warsaw Pact Ends

Comrades Its Over

“Comrades It’s Over!”, an anticommunist poster celebrating a Soviet withdraw from Hungary.

One of the most significant events within the Cold War was the dissolution of the Soviet led Warsaw Pact. Created in 1955, the Warsaw Pact was the answer to West Germany’s admittance into NATO, which was seen as increasing the risk of war and threatening the security of “peaceable states” (The Warsaw Security Pact). Despite the Warsaw Pact’s charter claiming that social or political systems did not matter, all member states were communist.

The biggest threat to members of the Warsaw Pact would not come from NATO. Instead, the threat came from the USSR, which used the Warsaw Pact to prop up communist governments loyal to Moscow. Warsaw Pact troops were used twice in the suppression of popular uprisings, first in Hungary and then in Czechoslovakia (Warsaw Pact Dissolves).

Soviet Tanks in Budapest

Soviet tanks in the streets of Budapest, 1956

The cost of supporting these regimes took a heavy toll on the Soviet economy. In 1986, the Soviet’s military budget consumed 40% of total spending, this number does not include the large amount of aid supplied to Soviet backed governments (Freeze, pg 456). The opportunity costs were staggering. Money invested into the military could have been spent elsewhere to help accelerate sectors of the economy. In an effort to reduce “the vice of defense expenditures”, Gorbachev sought to resume detente with the western powers (Freeze, pg 456). The Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, CFE, exemplifies this mindset as the treaty set a ceiling on troops and weapons systems through Europe, reducing both tensions and costs (Treaty On Conventional Forces).

In the end, the removal of communist governments from power in Warsaw Pact member states helped bring about the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. Starting with Poland, revolutions in 1989 brought about the defeat of communist governments. The ideological linkages that connected members to one another had collapsed.   On February 25th 1991, defense ministers from Warsaw Pact states, including those that were no longer communist, held a meeting in Hungary and decided to disband the treaty (Warsaw Pact Dissolves). This is best summarized by Dr. Pokland stating, “What ultimately happened is well known: The Soviet Union lost its friends and allies and the socialist community disappeared…” (Act of Goodwill Goes Unanswered).

redstar.png This post received a “red star” from the editorial team

Source Cited:

Freeze, Gregory. Russia a History. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press. 2009.

Poklad. B, Act of Goodwill Goes Unanswered. Current Digest of the Russian Press,  1991 , No. 33, Vol. 43.

Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. Federation of American Scientists. 1990. and

Von Geldern, James. Warsaw Pact Dissolves. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.

“The Warsaw Security Pact: May 14, 1955.” Avalon Project.
Image Sources:
Hungarian Democratic Forum. “Comrades – It’s Over!” Reproduced by permission from The Gelman Library, Friends of the GW Libraries, the National Security Archive, and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s CWIHP, Goodbye, Comrade: An Exhibition of Images from the Revolutions of ’89 and the Collapse of Communism, March 10 – December 30, 1999 (Washington D.C.: The George Washington University, 1999), 4.
Soviet Tanks in Budapest. 1956.

5 thoughts on “The Warsaw Pact Ends

  1. I had written before on the Warsaw Pact interventions in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, but I hadn’t considered how much it was costing the USSR to fund these interventions. It definitely lends a different perspective on the degree to which the USSR was unwilling, until 1991, to let these nations go.


  2. One of the biggest factors leading to the collapse of the USSR was its tremendous defense spending on itself and other Warsaw Pact countries and I think you did a great job examining this. At a certain point, the Soviets had to abandon their monstrous defense spending but it was too little too late. Awesome post!


  3. I didn’t realize that the Warsaw Pact was officially dissolved after the fall of the USSR. By 1991 most of the Eastern Bloc had already overthrown their respective communist/socialist governments so it is surprising to me to see that the pact stood even after that. Funny, just like the USSR spent a lot of their military budget upholding the party and Pact promises, I think you could say the same goes for the US and the NATO establishment. The big difference to note that you also wrote about was that the USSR was using a large amount of their budget on Warsaw/Military spending. This wasn’t the case for the US, who has maintained a pretty consistent, much smaller budget allocation of military spending since the end of World War II.


  4. It is interesting to me that the Warsaw Pact was officially dissolved before the official dissolution of the Soviet Union itself. The referendum on whether or not to break up the union did not take place until March of ’91, so it is incredible that the SU would remove its most powerful defensive measure while still incorporated as a political unit.


  5. It is very interesting how when the Warsaw Pact was officially dissolved, both communist and non-communist countries voted to dissolve it. It just shows that the political changes were already well underway before this official end. I think it also says a lot about Gorbachev and how he allowed these countries to go democratic, but ultimately it would have happened anyway. The massive amounts of money needed to sustain its military juggernaut meant that its command economy was seriously suffering.


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