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).
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).
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Freeze, Gregory. Russia a History. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press. 2009.
Von Geldern, James. Warsaw Pact Dissolves. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1991-2/warsaw-pact-dissolves/