20 Aralık 2013 Cuma

Quotation: Princeton University A World History of The World, "The NATO Treaty and the Warsaw Pact"

Last week, we covered the origins of the Cold War through some of its ideological and theoretical underpinnings in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. This week, we are continuing our discussion by focusing on the two opposing treaties that followed. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, was founded in 1949 by the United States and a bevy of Western European powers. The Warsaw Pact followed in 1955, dominated by the Soviet Union and its client states in Eastern Europe. Both treaties, despite being aligned along effectively ideological lines, make no mention of this. The Warsaw Pact goes as far as to claim that it is open to all European states “irrespective of their social and political systems” (Warsaw, 1).

Source: http://biblecoderesearch.org/Key_Codes/BearFiles/Index.html

The treaties were oriented in opposition to each other, but retained many similar elements. Both featured an emphasis on the internal unity of each bloc, militarily and, particularly in the case of the Warsaw Pact, economically. Both treaties allowed for new members, and prohibited existing ones from leaving for a fixed period of 20 years. Such firm commitments harkened back to an earlier era of European foreign policy – that of the years prior to World War One. Much like this earlier period, political actors at the time moved to create a fixed balance of power through a series of mutual defense pacts. This was supposed to put world affairs in context as well as provide a credible deterrent against conflict both big and small involving the major powers.

As show in the map below, the two opposing blocs (NATO in blue, the Warsaw Pact in red) came into conflict at many points across Europe. While many today focus on flashpoints such as Berlin, the two organizations shares many more borders. The NATO pact focuses its attention in a limited fashion, at least explicitly, mentioning a few places repeatedly. The importance of the North Atlantic (above the Tropic of Cancer) is mentioned in the name, while the document also highlights the defense of Greece, Turkey, and Algeria as significant. It was the fear of communist takeover in Greece that first launched the Truman Doctrine in 1947, and the fear did not appear to have abated two years later. Algeria, a colony of France, was notable for the number of French citizens who resided there – in fact, it was frequently regarded as part of France itself. What the NATO charter does not mention, however, is Germany or any area of Central or Eastern Europe. While the later inclusion of West Germany into NATO would be the immediate catalyst for the formation of the Warsaw Pact, at this early stage the Western powers seemed content to allow the USSR control of an area they viewed as a buffer.

The Warsaw Pact, in contrast to NATO, also paid greater lip service to the language of international inclusion and parity. The NATO pact explicitly notes that the articles would be held by the United States, its dominant power. The Warsaw Pact instead highlights the role of Poland in hosting the agreement. Having created a series of nation states in Eastern Europe in large part to appease the West, the USSR highlighted the supposed sovereignty of each of its client states. With the exception of West Germany, the Warsaw pact does not focus on specific areas of conflict. Instead, it takes great pains to mention all of the signatories as distinct entities.

The Warsaw Pact focused to a greater degree on economic integration within the bloc of nations comprising the Pact. Eastern Europe, behind the so-called “Iron Curtain” from the early days of the Cold War, had not enjoyed the boons of the Marshall Plan – a program of Keynesian economic aid designed by the United States to rebuild the war-torn nations of Europe in order to forestall communist encroachment. Additionally, the nation-states of Eastern Europe lacked the heavily industrialized economy of their neighbors to the West. This made them, according to Soviet ideology, ripe for revolution. It also made them economically vulnerable.

It is, perhaps, easy to confuse the organization of the two competing sides of the Cold War into treaty-bound blocs with the origins of the conflict itself. In fact, the creation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact are more appropriately viewed as results, rather than causes, of this conflict. The ideologies of liberal democracy and capitalism, on one hand, and communism, on the other, both focus on an end goal – the eradication of war, poverty, and hunger under their banner. Both propose different means of reaching that result (self-determination through nation-states and revolution of the proletariat, respectively), but importantly the universalist nature of each means inevitable conflict. As such, both sides were conditioned for conflict, and it is incorrect to see the mutual defense pacts as a cause of that.

When assessing the impact of the two treaties on the security of the world, the fact that the Cold War already existed must be made central. The question then becomes, did NATO and the Warsaw Pact minimize the “hot” part of the Cold War? While no epoch-defining nuclear war occurred, few would attribute this explicitly to the existence of the two defense pacts. The impact of the two treaties likely grows, however, when smaller conflicts are examined. Proxy wars between client states of the United States and the Soviet Union flashed all across the world during the Cold War – most famously in Korea and Vietnam, but also to varying degrees in other places around the globe. One place these conflicts did not take place, however, was in Europe. Despite numerous possible opportunities for NATO powers to aid those rising against Soviet puppet governments – notably in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968 – they never supported resistance movements as they did elsewhere in the world. Neither did the nations of the Warsaw Pact encroach on the smaller states of Western Europe. As such, while establishment of an explicit balance of power clearly did not prevent all conflict between the two diametrically opposed powers, it likely kept war off of the European continent for the duration of the Cold War.


The North Atlantic Treaty; Washington D.C.; April 4 1949.

Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the People's Republic of Albania, the People's Republic of Bulgaria, the Hungarian People's Republic, the German Democratic Republic, the Polish People's Republic, the Rumanian People's Republic, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Czechoslovak Republic; Warsaw, Poland; May 14 1955.

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