X hits on this document





32 / 34


alliances, Khrushchev believed that he could get rid of NATO, while maintaining a system of bilateral defence agreements with Eastern European nations. Although US nuclear superiority failed to discourage Soviet leaders from indulging in nuclear brinkmanship dur- ing the two major crises of the Cold war – over Berlin in 1961 and Cuba in 1962 – the deterrent effect of Western nuclear weapons has generally been taken for granted. However, as John Mueller suggests in Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War (Basic Books, 1989), Western reliance on nuclear deterrence seems to have been neither the only conceivable, nor even the most reliable way of preventing the outbreak of a Third World War. Indeed, according to documents uncovered through the Parallel History project, it even seems that, in the last decade of the Cold War, the Soviets were less concerned about the precise numbers of nuclear weapons on both sides and increasingly worried that they were falling behind in conventional weaponry – especially in the field of high-tech, high-precision weapons – where they had once held an undisputed advantage. Although the debate on the effect of Western deterrence on the Soviets remains inconclu- sive, the West’s conventional weapons and a clear willing- ness to use them appear to have been at least as effective a deterrent as the threat of nuclear Armageddon. Nevertheless, once the Warsaw Pact came into existence, Soviet leaders found it increasingly difficult to resist attempts by Eastern European allies to turn it into a gen- uine alliance, not unlike NATO. When initial reform efforts failed to generate any tangible results, the inability of the Soviets to accord their allies a more equal status under- mined enthusiasm among some Eastern European allies for the newly created alliance. Increasingly, the Soviet Union’s Eastern European allies found themselves in a situation in which they were obliged to share the risks involved in Soviet ventures without having a say in managing them. In this way, in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, we now know that Bucharest secretly let it be known to Washington that Romania intended to remain neutral in the event of a nuclear conflict. While reluctant to give the Eastern European allies more say than necessary, Mastny writes, the Soviets realised the necessi- ty of giving the allies a sense of belonging in the wake of growing Romanian dissent and the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. The results of this ongoing reform were, however, mixed. While trying to satisfy the allies’ desire for a more equal alliance, it rapidly became apparent that the Soviets would not be able to give them what they really wanted, namely similar consultation to that which the Western European nations secured through NATO. On the other hand, the Soviets did succeed in educating a Moscow-loyal officer corps by forging a more equal relationship with military establishments in various Eastern European countries. This saved them, for example, from having to invade Poland in the early 1980s, where the immediate crisis was temporarily resolved by the military coup of General Wojciech Jaruzelski. When, how- ever, the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, tried to breathe new life into the Eastern bloc, his hope of marrying a Western-style alliance of equals with a revamped Soviet system only exacerbated the crisis of the Warsaw Pact and hastened its demise. Is it fair to say that the Eastern bloc col- lapsed under the weight of its own failures and that the West only played a marginal role in its demise? Or was the West, and more specifically NATO, critical to this event? The answer may be rather sub- tle. As Mastny argues in his superbly researched Learning from the Enemy: NATO as a Model for the Warsaw Pact (Zürcher Beiträge zur Sicherheitspolitik und Konfliktforschung, Nr. 58, 2001), NATO was not only an adversary but, in many ways, a model of how to address the perennial crisis of the Warsaw Pact. However, as Mastny illustrates, the various attempts to emulate NATO in the end deepened that crisis. Revealing reading The difference between NATO and the Warsaw Pact was as obvious as it was crucial. NATO was created at the request of Western European governments and, in spite of the undisputed leadership of the United States, it was a community of equals. By contrast, the Warsaw Pact was a creation of the Soviet Union in which the other members initially had minimal influence. Indeed, when Nikita Khrushchev created the Warsaw Pact in 1955, allegedly in response to the entry of the Federal Republic of Germany into NATO, the decision to do so was above all a tactical ploy. By proposing the simultaneous disbanding of both Details of the Parallel History of NATO and the Warsaw Pact project, all key documents and results of historical research are available on the internet at: www.isn.ethz.ch/php

Winter 2001/2002

NATO review 33

Document info
Document views72
Page views72
Page last viewedSun Oct 23 08:20:46 UTC 2016