The Soviet Union entered World War II in September 1939 as an ally of Nazi Germany, which was in a military confrontation with Western democracies. But the game of history did so that the Soviet Union in 1945 met the end of the great world war among the anti-Hitler coalition members that defeated Germany, alongside its new allies from the states of Western democracies. Everyone expected that after the experience of the bloodiest world war in history, the peace and understanding between the states that beat fascism will dominate the international relations for a long period of time in the future. But the immediate postwar years showed how illusory this expectation was, with the Cold War era starting practically immediately after the hot war.
World divided into “camps”
After four years of war, the Soviet Union became one of the two world superpowers, occupying the largest part of Eastern Europe and installing in the states of this zone totalitarian communist regimes loyal to Moscow, turning these states into satellites of the USSR. The postwar world was divided according to the expression of one of the ideologists of Soviet communism, Zhdanov, into two camps: the communist camp and the capitalist camp. The communist doctrine imposed the logic of extermination of capitalism, which determined the Soviet policy of existential confrontation with Western democracies. The communist regime in Moscow was preparing for the start of the world socialist revolution, generating this way a permanent danger to international peace.
On June 5, 1947, in a speech delivered in the hall of the Harvard University, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall proposed a broad program of economic assistance for restoring the European economies that had been affected by World War II. The “European Recovery Program” (ERP), known as the Marshall Plan, envisioned the provision of considerable resources by the U.S. to 22 European states for their economic reconstruction. Among the potential beneficiaries of the plan were states of Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union. But Moscow described the Moscow state as “American economic imperialism” and banned the satellite countries from taking part in the initiative.
Peaceful cooperation was rejected
The Soviets considered the acceptance of the plan would lead to the detachment from the USSR of the countries from the sphere of influence of this and to the loss of the political and strategic advantages gained by the Kremlin in Central and Eastern Europe at the end of World War II. By rejecting the Marshall Plan, Stalin rejected the peaceful cooperation between two social systems, making it clear that it waited for the suitable moment to challenge the existence of Western democracies.
The Western chancelleries and societies immediately after the war didn’t perceive the real intentions of Stalin and the Soviets. During a particular period of time, the famous speech given on March 5, 1946 by Winston Churchill in Fulton, about the so-called “Iron Curtain” that was falling over Europe, didn’t enjoy great success. But shortly after that historic speech, the Iron Curtain was becoming a physical presence: the USSR’s satellites in Eastern Europe were building barbed wire fences between them and their neighbors in Western Europe.
“Iron Curtain” era
This way, a part of the forecasts made by Churchill started to come true. The last illusions about Stalin’s intentions faded away together with the formation in 1947of the Cominform – an organization for coordinating the communist regimes in Europe. The communist coup in Prague of February 1948 followed. Several months later, the Soviets launched the Berlin Blockage as a result of which the inhabitants of West Berlin, which was besieged by Soviet tanks, during two years had been supplied with everything by air by the Western powers.
From that moment, the existential danger to Western democracies on the part of the Soviet bloc turned into a reality that was acknowledged and assumed by the West. The counteracting of this danger became feasible through the signing, on April 4, 1949, of the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO), which became first of all a security pact for the Western bloc, which in its Article 5 stipulated that a military attack on any of the NATO allies will be considered an armed attack against all members. NATO became the most successful political and military defensive alliance in history, representing an insurmountable obstacle for the imperial reflexes of the USSR and its allies, with the number of members having grown throughout its history.
Warsaw Treaty: façade and back
The formation of NATO was one of the most unpleasant surprises for the Soviet imperialism, which irreversibly ended its expansion in Europe. After six years of delays, Moscow decided to formulate a response to NATO, initiating on May 14, 1955 the signing of the Warsaw Pact, formally the Treaty of Friendships, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, which was a military alliance of Eastern European countries that formed part of the Soviet bloc. The formation of the Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact) was first of all a propaganda response to the formation of NATO (six years earlier), which in reality pursued the goal of maintaining the Soviet influence in the countries of Eastern Europe through particularly strict military control.
The main objective of the Warsaw Pact was to ensure the security of the Soviet empire and the obedience of the satellite states. This way, the key clause of the treaty ensured Moscow’s control over Eastern Europe, giving it the right to keep its troops on the territory of its “allies”. The treaty was to remain in force for 20 years or until an East-West security pact was signed. This way, it was renewed in 1975 and then again in 1985.
Marginal organization without enlargement potential
The presence of Soviet troops in the member states of the Warsaw Treaty Organization exacerbated the internal and anti-Soviet tensions in Poland and Hungary, where anti-Soviet revolts were mounted in 1956. In Poland, a political solution was identified, while in Hungary the situation was “resolved” through the force of the Soviet military invasion. The Warsaw Pact was invoked also in 1968, when the Soviet Union used the troops of the Pact (soldiers from Poland, East Germany, Hungary, and Bulgaria) to invade Czechoslovakia with the aim of reestablishing control over the government in Prague. Symbolically, right in this city that in 1968 witnessed struggles between demonstrators and soldiers of the Warsaw Pact a conference was held in June 1991 to officially dissolve the organization.
The text of the Warsaw Pact announced that the organization was open to other states that were ready to declare their wish “to assist the peace-loving states in their efforts to defend peace and the security of nations”. But the invitation to enlarge the organization remained without a response in time as no other state expressed its wish to join the alliance, Albania being the state that officially withdrew from the Pact in 1968. Unlike NATO, which many states want to join even today, the Warsaw Pact remained a marginal organization without enlargement potential and whose members abandoned this on the first symptoms of weakness of the Soviet imperialism.
Lesson to be learned for Moldovans
The Warsaw Pact was dissolved in 1991, preceding by only several months the collapse of the USSR, whose geopolitical interests it served throughout its existence. The Warsaw Pact was a geopolitical creature of Soviet Moscow, which had nothing to do with the national interests of the other member states. This fact is proven by the migration of all the former Soviet satellites from the Warsaw Pact to NATO as the North Atlantic Alliance fully guarantees the security of its members. Unlike the Warsaw Pact in which the former states of the Socialist bloc existed within the limits of the Brezhnev Doctrine of limited sovereignty, the accession to NATO for the states of Eastern Europe, which were freed from Moscow’s domination, equaled the regaining of sovereignty and guaranteed state security. This is a lesson to be learned by Moldovan society that is yet tributary to the Soviet mental tradition and prejudice about the role of joining NATO in the current architecture of international security.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.