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Did NATO Win the Cold War?

Documentary supplement to the article "Did NATO Win the Cold War? Looking over the Wall," by Vojtech Mastny, Foreign Affairs 78, no. 3 (May-June 1999): 176-89

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 14

For more information contact:
202/994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu


Washington, D.C., April 23, 1999 – This documentary supplement to the article, "Did NATO Win the Cold War? Looking over the Wall," has been prepared on the occasion of the Washington summit marking the 50th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It is intended to provide the reader with the most important sources referred to in the text of the article that are relevant to the view of NATO "from the other side."

Some of the sources have been obtained as a result of the project on the "Parallel History of the Cold War Alliances," conducted by the National Security Archive in cooperation with the Center for Security Studies and Conflict Research of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. More information about the project can be found on the websites of the two institutions.

Other sources were made available through the National Security Archive's partner organization, the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, and have been published in its Bulletin. More information about the Project can be found on its website.

The documents refer to the text of the article according to the numbers that appear on its margins. They are published in full or in part, as indicated, and are preceded by brief introductions explaining their origins. In some cases, reproductions of the original documents are included as samples.

Catherine Nielsen and John Martinez, both of the National Security Archive, assisted in the preparation of the texts for online publication.

Vojtech Mastny



Document 1.

George F. Kennan, the architect of America's policy of containment and a frequent critic of its execution, was U.S. ambassador to Moscow in one of the darkest years of the Cold War, 1952. On September 8, 1952, shortly before he was expelled from the Soviet Union as a persona non grata, he sent a dispatch to Washington in which he tried to assess NATO from the Soviet point of view. In retrospect, he regarded this assessment so important that he included it as the only appendix to his volume of memoirs published in 1971. While some of Kennan's conclusions may not have withstood the test of time, his warning against being "fascinated and enmeshed by the relentless and deceptive logic of the military equation" remained topical throughout the Cold War.

[George F. Kennan, Memoirs: 1950-1963 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971, pp. 327-51]


Document 2.

A confidential information bulletin provided by Soviet intelligence to top eastern European party leaders has been preserved in the files of the Czechoslovak communist party central committee in Prague. As shown on the sample, the reports sometimes quoted verbatim statements made by high Western officials at top secret meetings.

The bulletin included the following passage referring to the alleged American disclosure at a secret NATO meeting in December 1950:

"In connection with their failures in Korea the Americans apparently intend to provoke in the summer of 1951 a military conflict in eastern Europe with the goal of seizing the eastern zone of Austria. To realize this goal, the Americans intend to utilize Yugoslavia."

["O deiatelnosti organov Severo-atlanticheskogo Soiuza v sviazi s sozdaniem atlanticheskoi armii i remilitarizatsiei zapadnoi Germanii," February 1951, 92/1093, 100/24, Central State Archives, Prague; translated by Svetlana Savranskaya, National Security Archive]


Document 3.

Karel Kaplan, an official researcher who had enjoyed unlimited access to the Czechoslovak communist party archives prior to his defection to the West, learned about a meeting with Stalin on January 9-12, 1951, from one of its participants, the country's minister of defense Alexej Cepicka. In 1978, Kaplan created a stir by publishing his findings, suggesting that Stalin had told his eastern European followers to prepare for an offensive war against Western Europe:

  "After a report by representatives of the bloc about the condition of their respective armies, Stalin took the floor to elaborate on the idea of the military occupation of the whole of Wurope, insisting on the necessity of preparing it very well.

Since the Korean War had demonstrated the military weakness of the United States, despite its use of highly advanced technology, it seemed appropriate to Stalin to take advantage of this in Europe. He developed arguments in support of the following thesis: `No European army is in a position to seriously oppose the Soviet army and it can even be anticipated that there will be no resistance at all. The current military power of the United States is not very great. For the time being, the Soviet camp therefore enjoys a distinct superiority. But this is merely temporary, for some three or four years. Afterward, the United States will have at its disposal means for transporting reinforcements to Europe and will also be able to take advantage of its atomic superiority. Consequently, it will be necessary to make use of this brief interval to systematically prepare our armies by mobilizing all our economic, political, and human resources. During the forthcoming three or four years, all of our domestic and international policies will be subordinated to this goal. Only the total mobilization of our resources will allow us to grasp this unique opportunity to extend socialism throughout the whole of Europe.'"

[Karel Kaplan, Dans les Archives du comité central: Trente ans de secrets du bloc soviétique, Paris: Michel, 1978, pp. 165-66; translated by Vojtech Mastny]

Another record of the Moscow meeting, written shortly afterward by its Romanian participant, Minister of the Armed Forces Emil Bodnaras, has been preserved in Bucharest and was published there in 1995. According to this document, Stalin urged a buildup of the eastern European armies to deter an American attack rather than to prepare them for an attack on western Europe. But his insistence on exploiting what he regarded as current American weakness to achieve combat readiness within three years could be interpreted as a call for offensive action at the right time. The three-year framework he mentioned corresponded to the period of "maximum danger" that also underlay NATO's contemporary plans for the development of its armed forces --another indication that those secret plans were no secret to Stalin.

[C. Cristescu, "Ianuarie 1951: Stalin decide înarmarea Romanei," Magazin Istoric, 1995, no. 10, pp. 15-23; translated by Vladimir Socor]


Document 4.

This description of presumed Soviet military capabilities is from one of the annual estimates compiled by NATO from 1950 onward and is preserved in its archives in Brussels.

["Estimate of the Relative Strength and Capabilities of NATO and Soviet Bloc Forces at Present and in the Immediate Future," November 23, 1951, C8-D/4 (M.C. 33), International Staff, NATO Archives, Brussels]


Document 5.

The excerpt from the record of the 99th meeting of NATO's Military Representatives Committee shows some of the doubts that spread by 1955 about the accuracy of the alliance's estimates of Soviet capabilities:

[Record of 99th meeting of the Military Representatives Committee with the North Atlantic Council in Washington, 18 May 1955, International Military Staff, NATO Archives, Brussels]


Document 6.

The conclusive answer to the question of who started the Korean War and why could finally be given in 1995, following the release of the Soviet documents proving Kim Il Sung's initiative and Stalin's indispensable support. Some of the relevant documents were given by Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin to South Korean President Kim Young-Sam during his state visit to Moscow, others were subsequently made available from Russian archives. They were translated into English and published with commentaries for the first time by American historian Kathryn Weathersby in the Cold War International History Project Bulletin, nos. 5 and 6-7.


Document 7.

President Eisenhower was worried that because of their failures in Eastern Europe the Soviets might take "any wild adventure." At the meeting of the National Security Council on 31 October 1956, he expressed his concern that "Soviet suspicions of U.S. policy and present circumstances which involve Soviet troop movements and alerts probably increase the likelihood of a series of actions and counter-actions leading inadvertently to war." This statement is included in the document entitled "U.S. Policy toward Developments in Poland and Hungary," NSC-5616, a "sanitized" version with deletions was published in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-57, vol. 25, pp. 463-69; its full version is available at the National Security Archive, RN 66037.


Document 8.

Contrary to the President's fears, the Soviet leaders concluded on the same day that "there will be no large-scale war." Informal notes of the Soviet party presidium deliberations, during which they reversed themselves several times before deciding to intervene by force, were kept by Vladimir Malin, head of the general department of the party central committee. They have been preserved in the Storage Center for Contemporary Documentation in Moscow and published in the Cold War International History Project Bulletin, nos. 8-9 (1996/97), pp. 388-410, by Mark Kramer. The most important of the notes follow.

The key documents on Soviet decision-making during the 1968 Czechoslovak crisis were published by the National Security Archive in the book, The Prague Spring 1968 (Budapest: Central European University Press, 1998)


Document 9.

In 1994, minutes of the Soviet party presidium meetings showing its reluctance to intervene militarily in the Polish crisis were published in Moscow ("Dokumenty `Komissii Suslova': Sobytiia v Polshe v 1981 g." [Documents of the "Suslov Commission": The Events in Poland in 1981], Novaia i Noveishaia Istoriia, 1994, no. 1: 84-105). At the time of the publication, the public debate about the admission of Poland into NATO was gaining momentum, and it has been suggested that that by releasing evidence to the effect that in 1981 the Soviet Union had not been a military threat to Poland, the Russian government wanted to bolster its argument that Polish membership in the Western alliance was unnecessary. Nevertheless, no doubts have been cast on the authenticity of the documents, including the record of the presidium meeting on 10 December 1981, three days before the Polish government declared martial law.


Document 10.

Under the new party leadership of Wladyslaw Gomulka, the Polish general staff in November 1956 established a special commission, headed by Gen. Jan Drzewiecki, to press for a renegotiation of the Warsaw Pact. Invoking the status of American forces in foreign countries as an example, the commission proceeded with its work despite Soviet military intervention in Hungary and submitted its proposal for the reform of the alliance to the Soviet Union in January 1957. The proposal was promptly rejected.


Document 11.

The secret Romanian approach to Secretary of State Dean Rusk was revealed thirty years later by former U.S. foreign service officer and ambassador to Bulgaria Raymond L. Garthoff.

["When and Why Romania Distanced Itself from the Warsaw Pact," Cold War International History Project Bulletin 5 (1995), p. 111]


Document 12.

The position of the Czechoslovak reformist leadership toward the Warsaw Pact was summarized in a paper prepared at the Prague ministry of defense in July 1968. Drafted in response to the mounting Soviet accusations of Czechoslovakia's alleged disloyalty to the alliance, it was probably never used.

["The Warsaw Treaty and Czechoslovakia," July 1968, MNO-1968, sekr. min. 2/1-9, Military Historical Archives, Prague; translated by Vojtech Mastny]


Document 13.

Evidence showing that Gen. Jaruzelski imposed martial law in Poland in December 1981 not in order to avert Soviet military intervention but in order to crush the democratric opposition was presented at the conference co-organized by the National Security Archive in November 1997 at Jachranka near Warsaw. The most startling piece of that evidence is the notebook by Gen. Viktor I. Anoshkin, aide to Warsaw Pact Supreme Commander Marshal Viktor G. Kulikov, indicating that Jaruzelski, fearful that his attempt to introduce martial law might fail, actually solicited Soviet military backing in case he would run into difficulties but was rebuffed.

A sample of an original page of the notebook and a selection of its entries follow.


Document 14.

At a meeting with the Hungarian party chief Karóly Grósz on 8 September 1988, the East German leader Erich Honecker recalled that

"at the time of the stationing of the missiles in western Europe, the SED [East German Communist Party] was pleased with how the fraternal Hungarian party reacted by adopting a position similar to that of the SED . . . . We could not agree with the idea that, after the stationing of the missiles, any dialog would be impossible . . . " Comrade Honecker remembered that during this time the central organ of the SED printed an article by comrade Szürös, in which the agreement of our viepoints was made clear. [Record of the Honecker-Grosz meeting, Zentrales Parteiarchiv, J IV/931, Stiftung Archiv der Parteien und Massenorganisationen der DDR im Bundesarchiv, Berlin; translated by Catherine Nielsen, National Security Archive]

Honecker was referring to his public statements in 1983-84 in which he, obliquely but unequivocally, expressed misgivings about the deployment of additional Soviet missiles in East Germany. At a time when the Soviet Union took an intransigent stance against the deployment of NATO's intermediate range nuclear missiles, he expressed his desire to continue a dialogue with the West in order to save détente.

". . . The GDR has, like the other states of the socialist community, been actively supporting the adamant and consistent peace policy of the Soviet Union in all phases of the struggle against the deployment of American first-strike weapons. Simultaneously, it has been developing a broad scale of activities, using its international channels at the UN and elsewhere to calm down the world situation and help forestall any extreme reactions. . . .

I like to point out here the numerous contacts and talks with representatives of Western nations, their parties and their economic and public institutions up to the highest levels, that helped to clarify the positions of the GDR and our socialist community with regard to the burning issues of the struggle for peace against the policies of confrontation and the arms race. It is well known that in this is the context we have been conducting a multifaceted dialogue with politicians of the FRG, be they personalities of the federal government and the Bonn coalition parties or of the opposition. This has not been without results. . .

It is of great importance to continue the political dialogue with all forces that acknowledge their responsibility for the fate of their people and of mankind and are prepared to keep the channels of communication open. We advocate that all possibilities to negotiate a stop to the arms race and a transition to disarmament, especially in the nuclear field, should be used."

["Speech by Erich Honecker delivered in East Berlin at the SED's seventh CC plenum, 26-27 November 1983"; Neues Deutschland, 26 and 27 November 1983; published in East Berlin and Moscow: the Documentation of a Dispute, Ron Asmus, ed., RFE Occasional Papers, Number 1, Munich: Germany, 1985, pp. 19-21]

"Our policy is and remains determined by the principles of peaceful coexistence and by efforts to reduce tension and [the risk oil military confrontation, especially here in Europe. Reason and a determination to find constructive solutions to the contested problems in a peaceful manner must dominate the sphere of international relations. Cooperation must prevail in order to ensure mutual advantage; the continuation of an East-West dialogue is of the utmost importance. My meetings with leading politicians and other individuals from the West, including the FRG, are to be seen in this context. . . .

I have thereby also expressed [the principles that] will guide us in the further development of relations between the GDR and the FRG. These relations cannot be severed from the need for a peaceful future for both German states, indeed, for a peaceful future for Europe, [and] for a rational [future based on] coexistence and cooperation. In view of this and aware of the experiences of two world wars and the responsibilities the two German nations have for peace, it is most important that every possibility be used so that reason and realism prevail, so that cooperation instead of confrontation come to the fore, and so disarmament proceeds and the process of détente is revived, according to the principles of equality and equal security."

["Erich Honecker's speech to district party leaders in East Berlin on 12 February 1984"; Neues Deutschland, 13 February 1984; published in East Berlin and Moscow: the Documentation of a Dispute, Ron Asmus, ed., RFE Occasional Papers, Number 1, Munich: Germany, 1985, p25.]


Document 15.

On 2-3 August and again on 5 August 1961, while secret preparations for the building of the Berlin War were at their final stage and eastern European leaders were gathered to Moscow to consider the consequences, Khrushchev met with the visiting Italian Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani. Evidently anxious about the likely Western response to the imminent drastic action in Berlin and undecided whether he should follow it up by making good on his repeated threat to conclude a separate peace treaty with East Germany, Khrushchev went the farthest ever in trying to intimidate one of America's key European allies. The Soviet government subsequently shared its transcript of the conversation with its Warsaw Pact allies.

Indignant at his recent contentious meeting with President John F. Kennedy in Vienna, Khrushchev complained about having supposedly been threated by him with war if the East German peace treaty were signed. Khrushchev nevertheless insisted that the treaty would be signed [it never was] and that "access to West Berlin will be closed" as a result. He added that he had "an even bigger hydrogen bomb" (10 million tons of TNT) and was under pressure by his technicians and military to test it.

"Within an hour after the outbreak of a war," Khrushchev predicted, "West Germany would be annihilated." He warned that all of America's allies were at risk because of the U.S. bases on their territories, and the Soviet Union had enough missiles to destroy them all. But the war will be started by the West, not by the East, he said.

"The United States will start the war, and you will have to die," Khrushchev informed his Italian guest. "Understand me right. This is not a threat but a reality . . . . If we are attacked we will destroy the whole world. This is not an ultimatum but a realistic estimate."

[Soviet record of the Khrushchev-Fanfani conversations, 2-3 and 5 August 1961, Zentrales Parteiarchiv, J IV 2/202-329, Stiftung Archiv der Parteien und Massenorganisationen der DDR im Bundesarchiv, Berlin]


Document 16.

On the way to his meeting with Kennedy in Vienna, Khrushchev in June 1961 revealed the nature of his brinkmanship to Czechoslovak party leaders gathered in Bratislava. The record of his statement, preserved in the Central State Archives in Prague, was published in a Russian translation in 1998 ("`Lenin tozhe riskoval': Nakanune vstrechi Khrushcheva i Kennedi v Vene v iiune 1961 g.," ["Lenin Took Risks, Too": On the Eve of the Khrushchev-Kennedy Encounter in Vienna in June 1961], Istochnik, 1998, no. 3: 85-97).


Document 17.

The question of whether Khrushchev sent battlefield nuclear weapons to Cuba with the intention of their being fired against U.S. targets in case of an American invasion of the island has been contested among historians. On the one hand, he gave clear instructions that no use of any nuclear weapons was authorized without explicit approval from Moscow. On the other hand, he acted as if he had no conception of the risk of escalation if the battlefield nuclear weapons were actually used. Some of the relevant documents from Soviet archives follow.


Document 18.

The Warsaw Pact command and staff exercise MAZOWSZE, conducted in Poland in June 1963, was based on actual war plans. It envisaged a veritable pandemonium, in which hundreds of nuclear weapons would be fired and millions of people killed, yet the country, unlike its Western adversaries, would not only survive and even keep functioning, but win the war in three days. The description of the war game was printed by the general staff for internal use and given the highest grade of classification.
The appended map shows the anticipated radioactive contamination of nearly all of Poland, sometimes up to 1,000 times the acceptable level.


Document 19.

The speech by Soviet party general secretary Yuri V. Andropov at the closed session of the Warsaw Pact's Political Consultative Committee in Prague on May 4, 1983, was his first major policy statement after the death of his predecessor, Leonid I. Brezhnev. Because of Andropov's systematic and thoughtful, if ideologically distorted, overview of the international scene, the complete text of his speech is included here.

[Speech by Andropov, 4 January 1983, VA-01/40473, Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv, Freiburg; translated by Svetlana Savranskaya]


Document 20.

The strategic posture of the Warsaw Pact changed from defensive to offensive in 1961 in the course of the Berlin crisis 1958-61 as Khrushchev prepared to violate the Allied agreements on Germany by signing a separate peace treaty with East Germany. Although the treaty was never signed the change became permanent. A Czechoslovak Ministry of Defense document from 1966 retrospectively described its meaning:

"The former strategic concept, which gave our armed forces the task to `firmly cover the state border, not allow penetration of our territory by enemy forces and create conditions for active operations of other allied forces,' was changed in 1961, without discussion by the Political Consultative Committee, and the Czechoslovak People's Army was assigned an active task."

["Materiály k otázce Spojeného velení," undated [early 1966], GS-OS 0039042/1, Archives of the Ministry of Defense, Prague, translated by Vojtech Mastny]

The intended offensive was practiced every year in numerous exercises of the Warsaw Pact's "Western Army Group." The document entitled "The Basic Characteristics of the Army Group Operation at the Initial Stage of the War," prepared by the Czechoslovak general staff in mid-1963 according to Soviet guidelines, reads in part...

 ["Smernice velitele Západního frontu císlo 001 . . . ," MNO-1967, HSPV, sg. 4/4-21/21, Military Historical Archives, Prague, translated by Vojtech Mastny]

In anticipation of the advance into enemy territory, appeals were to be addressed to NATO soldiers to surrender. Leaflets were composed by the propaganda department of the Czechoslovak army in English and French and intended to be dropped behind the front lines:

[MNO 1964, kr. 101, 17/1/1,3, Military Historical Archives, Prague]

Soviet estimates of the morale of the enemy troops and West German population were supplied to Warsaw Pact member states and used in lectures for the benefit of their officer corps. One such lecture, prepared by the Czechoslovak general staff in 1963, included the following observations.

["Vojensko-politická charakteristika a stav operacne-takticke prípravy armád NATO," March 1963, MNO-1963, GS/VZV, sg. 17/1-1, pp. 21, 24, 33-34, Military Historical Archives, Prague]

 Here are some of the Warsaw Pact assessments of individual Bundeswehr and U.S. Army formations:

["Informacní zpráva o vojscích neprítele," 2 July 1964, MNO 1964, kr. 101, 17/1/1,3, Military Historical Archives, Prague]


Document 21.

The scenario, which haunted particularly the East German leader Walter Ulbricht, was described in a paper prepared for the August 3, 1959, session of the Security Commission of the East German communist party central committee with the goal of increasing the combat readiness of the country's armed forces. In its first part, the paper quotes from a purported secret West German document, code-named DECO II, which East Germany's spy chief Markus Wolf maintains having obtained from his agents in 1955 (Markus Wolf, Spionagechef im geheimen Krieg: Erinnerungen, Munich: Econ, 1997, p. 118):

["Erhöhung der Gefechtsbereitschaft der Nationalen Volksarmee," 29 July 1959, prepared for Security Commission of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party, session of 3 August 1959, DVW1/39568, Bundesrachiv-Militärarchiv, Freiburg, translated by Vojtech Mastny]


Document 22.

Growing concern about advances in NATO's conventional forces is evident in Warsaw Pact evaluations of the annual Western military maneuvers since the late 1970s. It grew during the 1980s mainly because of rapid advances in high-technology weapons which the Warsaw Pact planners did not see themselves in a position to match.

Excerpts from some of the representative documents


Document 23.

In his rambling remarks at a closed meeting of officials of the Czechoslovak general staff on March 13, 1968, its chief, Gen. Otakar Rytír, grasped the heart of the problem that would eventually play a critical role in prompting the collapse of the Soviet system—its inability to keep up with its capitalist rival in economic and technological competition.

[Antonín Bencík, Jaromír Navrátil, and Jan Paulík, ed., Vojenské otázky ceskoslovenské reformy, 1967-1970: Vojenská varianta rešení cs. krize (1967- 1968) [Military Problems of the Czechoslovak Reform, 1967-1970: The Military Option in the Solution of the Czechoslovak Crisis], (Brno: Doplnek, 1996), pp. 78-80. Translated by Vojtech Mastny.]


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