On May 14, 1955, the Soviet Union and Eastern European representatives met in Warsaw, Poland to sign a treaty officially named the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, otherwise known as the Warsaw Pact, or the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO).
The pact included the Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania. It was formed to keep peace in Europe and create an alternative to the forming of the Western military and political bloc – started by the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the militarization of Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and its acceptance into NATO in 1955. Both of these facts were considered by the Soviet Union as an increased danger of a new war and a threat to the national security of socialist states.
Although in the West it was seen as the Soviet “instrument of control over its satellites in Eastern Europe” (wrote the NY Times), the Warsaw pact was purely a self-defense measure. In accordance with its conditions and regulations of the UN countries, members of the Warsaw Pact committed to abstain from the threat of force or its use in foreign affairs and pledged to come to the defense of any member attacked by an outside force. Conditions of the treaty also included “total equality, mutual noninterference in internal affairs, and respect for national sovereignty and independence.”
Just like NATO, which was formed in 1949, the Warsaw Pact put an emphasis on coordinating arms and strategy of military forces of member nations. It saw the creation of two branches: the Political Consultative Committee and the Unified Command of Pact Armed Forces, which was headed by Soviet marshals. Being an instrument of defense, the WTO accumulated supplies of weapons and ammunition and prepared for any outbreaks of hostility from the West. In the 35 years of its existence it had never engaged in an open conflict with NATO, but its troops were involved in suppressing uprisings in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968). Albania left the organization in 1968 and the Warsaw pact was later joined by Vietnam and Mongolia.
In 1989 a wave of revolutions swept Eastern Europe with many countries overthrowing their governments, bringing an end to communism. This followed the fall of the Berlin Wall (the former symbol of a divided Europe) in November 1989. In conjunction with the transformation of the USSR and other Eastern countries, in March 1991 the member states of the Warsaw Pact abolished their military structures and on July 1 they declared the treaty non-existent.