In 1955, the Soviet Union along with seven of its satellite countries signed the Warsaw Pact or The Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance as it was officially known. The Pact was meant as a deterrent to NATO, a military alliance founded after WWII by the US and nations in Western Europe. The Warsaw Pact established an economic and military coalition amongst participating countries. The Pact also gave the Soviet Union unchecked influence over its allies.
The Warsaw Pact was an alliance formed by the Soviet Union and its Eastern bloc allies. The treaty was signed on May 14, 1955 in the Polish capital, Warsaw. The purpose of the pact, which was initiated by the USSR under the direction of Prime Minister Marshal Bulganin, was to promote military and economic cooperation among its signatories. The agreement also bound its signatories to offer military support should any one member come under attack.
The Warsaw Pact comprised eight countries in Eastern and Central Europe: Albania, Romania, Eastern Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union. Its Western counterpart and rival NATO was founded by the US and Canada, and included ten European nations: Belgium, the Netherlands, France, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Portugal, Italy, Iceland, Denmark and Norway.
The Warsaw Pact was officially implemented following a three day conference in the Polish capital. The Pact was, in part, a response to the inclusion of Western Germany within NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization established in 1949) five days earlier (May 9, 1955). In total, the Warsaw Pact existed for 36 years spanning the length of the Cold War and detente. It was officially dismantled at a conference in Prague in 1991.
Nominally, the Pact was a counterbalance to NATO. It established a unified Armed Forces and a political committee for handling foreign policy matters. In actuality, the Warsaw Pact legitimated the Soviet Union’s power in the region, giving it implicit control over neighboring countries. Moscow leveraged the Pact to dominate and interfere in its allies’ political affairs. In 1956 the Pact was used to quash democratization in Hungary and again in Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring Uprising of 1968. The de facto nature of the Pact kept the Eastern Bloc on a tight leash.
To this day, the Warsaw Pact countries are still feeling the effects of the former Soviet Union’s control. During the span of the Pact allied countries were subjugated to Soviet ideology. This meant that all private industries and property were nationalized in line with a communist planned economy. Deviation from the Soviet line was not tolerated. This occurred in the midst of the Cold War, in an atmosphere of heightened tensions.