What Was the Warsaw Pact and Why Was It Important?

(Last Updated On: July 5, 2019)

What Was the Warsaw Pact and Why Was It Important?

What Was the Warsaw Pact?

If you like Cold War drama, maybe you’ve heard of the Warsaw Pact in reference to NATO? Or maybe you’re just pretty well-versed in your 20th century history and want to expand that knowledge? Regardless, you’re curious to know more about what the Warsaw Pact was, and so we’ll give you an overview.

The Warsaw Pact was a collective defense treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland, on May 14, 1955. The pact was made between the Soviet Union and several Eastern Bloc satellite states, and was the USSR’s response to NATO. Specifically, West Germany joining NATO post-WWII, and the USSR’s rejection from it.

Further reading: What Is NATO?

The Warsaw Pact was also known as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance. Before we get into the thick of it, here are the nations who were a part of the Warsaw Pact.

Warsaw Pact Members List:
  • Albania
  • Bulgaria
  • Czechoslovakia
  • East Germany
  • Hungary
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • The USSR (Soviet Union)

Warsaw Pact Policy

The Warsaw Pact was driven largely by the Soviet Union’s goal of controlling Central/Eastern Europe. It coincided with a push in the West, specifically from America, towards a more global democracy. Of course, this ran directly counter to the philosophies of Soviet leaders. So long story short, the Warsaw Pact was also the Soviet Union’s response to the actions of America and its involvement in global affairs. Through the Warsaw Pact, the Soviets sought to centralize leadership of a global socialist/communist movement on to the USSR.

Because the Warsaw Pact was largely an attempt to retain Soviet power, its major goals were to keep the USSR and its satellite states together. To achieve this, the Soviets would station troops in Warsaw Pact countries anytime there was ever the threat of reform, revolt, or revolution.

A prime example of Warsaw Pact policy in action came in 1968. After Alexander Dubček, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, began to implement more liberal reforms in his country, the Warsaw Pact members invaded Czechoslovakia (Romania and Albania refused to participate). This invasion successfully thwarted Dubček’s reforms, and helped strengthen the grasp of the authoritarian wing within the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.

Tension With NATO

You might think that the two biggest world superpower teams might come to blows at some point, but that was never actually the case (directly). NATO and Warsaw Pact members, despite being of near opposite ideologies, never actually went to war with each other. Of course, the two parties co-existed during the Cold War. So they engaged in arms races rather than actually fighting each other.

Most of the conflict between these two groups took place in proxy wars and with counter-policies. A good example here is the Vietnam War. While this war was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam, there were many other players involved. North Vietnam was supported by communist allies like the Soviet Union and China. Conversely, South Vietnam was supported by anti-communist allies led by the US.

What this represented, of course, was an attempt to quell the expansion of the USSR/Warsaw Pact nations without ever having to fight them directly.

Collapse of the Warsaw Pact

As the Cold War drew to a close, the Revolutions of 1989 began. These revolutions would start in Poland, and eventually sweep through to the other Warsaw Pact nations. From 1989 to 1991, the Communist governments would be overthrown in each of the Warsaw Pact countries.

In the end, the Warsaw Pact would collapse on July 1, 1991. In a twist of irony, every nation that was a member (with the exception of Russia) ended up joining NATO within 20 years of the pact’s disintegration.

Lots of crazy stuff came out of the Cold War. Want proof? Check out these articles:

Or, test your trivia knowledge in the quiz below! Do you remember the countries mentioned in this article?



About Kyler 727 Articles
Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.