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14 May, 2010 03:20

Warsaw Treaty hits 55

After NATO was formed in 1949, the Soviet Union built up its own military alliance, the Warsaw Pact. The Soviet Union and seven European socialist states joined the treaty on May 14, 1955.

Together with the Soviet Union they rehearsed possible scenarios of a third world war.

Kossa, 60 kilometers from Leipzig, Germany, seems to be an idyllic forest with majestic pines and surprisingly wide asphalted paths in between. It is a site of a popular tourist attraction: the now declassified Warsaw Pact main bunker, which is currently a museum.

However, during the Cold War the place used to be the location of a top secret control center with unique technology.

Kossa was fully-equipped to become the command bunker of the Warsaw Pact. Heavy weaponry was brought in. A hospital and an intelligence shelter were set up beneath the earth.

The center would get the mobile signal from the troposphere in case a nuclear cloud covered the Earth. The Kossa bunker was built to deal with any attack, including a nuclear one.

In case of an attack, the allies could easily reach Western Europe.

“The plan was to reach the Rhein in three days. To achieve this goal it was necessary to build a bunker right on this place,” says Olaf Strahlendorff, director of the Kossa Military Museum.

NATO also rehearsed the war.

But many question whether it has stopped the game now, two decades after the Warsaw Pact seized to exist.

“The ongoing expansion of NATO is wrong. It breaks the agreement between Gorbachev and the then-Western leaders, that there would be no troops on the territory of former East Germany. Now the whole of Germany is in NATO and other countries, too. Of course, Russia is nervous about being encircled. Especially after some of the former Soviet republics, such as Georgia, rose in arms against Russia,” said Wojciech Jaruzelski, the former communist leader and president of Poland from 1981 to 1990.

Mateusz Piskorky, president of the European Center for Geopolitical Studies, represents a new generation of politicians in Poland.

For him the 55th anniversary of the signing of the Warsaw Oact is nothing to celebrate.

“The Warsaw Pact, just like NATO, are leftovers of the Cold War. We live in an absolutely new world, in new realities. These military blocs are useless now. As for the Warsaw Pact, it should be the ground for debates between historians, but not politicians,” said Piskorsky.

Dmitry Suslov, political analyst, says there are many differences between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

“First – NATO was not imposed actually on the Allies, but they joined NATO because they wanted really to. Second – the common values between Europe and the US that push the sides together. Third is political inertia – America after the end of the Cold War did not withdraw from Western Europe on the one hand. On the other hand the Western Europeans didn’t really know how to live without NATO and they were really cautious where to gain security from if NATO disappears because they did not have any substitute,” he told RT.

“[The Europeans] were also like France and the UK concerned about the German factor – what would be the future of Germany without NATO and I would remind that one of the original purposes of NATO’s creation was to keep Germany down. So, all those many factors predetermined NATO existence after the Cold War,” Suslov added.

The main factor, as Suslov stressed, is that “NATO was the embodiment, the symbol of the triumphant West after the end of the Cold War and in the US in 1993-1994 the decision was made in Washington and then in Brussels to build the new security architecture not from a blank sheet of paper, but on the basis of the institutions that already existed – the Western institutions.”

“And the process that we saw after was the extension of the Western institutions – an attempt to create European Security architecture on the basis of NATO and attempts to build a global security on the basis of the West. Now we see the limits of that process and so we probably see the end of NATO enlargement.”

Niels Annen, a German foreign affairs expert, thinks the difference between the two alliances is that “NATO has always been composed of democracies and the NATO alliance is today open for membership.”