Warsaw Pact Formally Ends Its Military Role : Alliance: Eastern European leaders gather in Budapest to make final arrangements to wipe out a 35-year enslavement to the Kremlin.
It was a funeral at which no tears were shed and those paying respects could hardly be called bereaved.
The 35-year-old Warsaw Pact was buried Monday with little ceremony and less regret, formally ending Eastern Europe’s military enslavement to the Kremlin.
Foreign and defense ministers of the six remaining member countries gathered in Budapest for the final arrangements, ironically returning to the scene of their first common crime.
It was in Hungary that tanks and troops quashed the 1956 anti-Communist revolt in the name of the Eastern European defense bloc, earning the Warsaw Pact the hatred and fear of those it ostensibly sought to protect.
The invasion of Czechoslovakia 12 years later and the intrusion into Polish domestic politics during the early years of the Solidarity trade union movement built on the alliance image as a Kremlin instrument for repressing those trying to escape communism’s smothering embrace.
“It played a rather unfortunate, unsavory role in some recent events,” said Hungarian Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky, when asked how history would judge the pact.
In an unemotional eulogy for the guests at the final meeting, Jeszenszky noted that some politicians continue to defend the Warsaw Pact as a force that contributed to the peace and stability enjoyed in Europe since the end of World War II.
“More numerous are those, however, who characterize it as an organization resting on mistaken fundamentals which has outlived itself,” Jeszenszky said.
Others gathered for the symbolic burial argued that the Warsaw Pact, as a united force with a common objective, never existed in the first place.
“There never was a Warsaw Pact agreement,” Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier observed with irony when asked details of the documents rendered obsolete at the meeting. “All the documents were only Soviet agreements.”
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler called the Warsaw Pact’s decision to dissolve its military structures “a significant step in the efforts being made to reduce military tensions and increase cooperation throughout Europe.”
“As we come closer to a Europe whole and free, we will continue our joint work to enhance confidence-building measures and pursue further arms-control dialogue in Europe,” Tutwiler said.
Plans for the pact’s notorious invasions were drafted in Moscow and not even shared with the other military forces in whose names they were made, Dienstbier said.
The most incriminating documents never left the Kremlin, and the rest of the records of the Warsaw Pact will probably remain secret for years.
Individual governments had the right to deem information about their forces and weaponry classified for national security reasons and there was little to be disposed of in closing out the estate of the pact.
Monday’s meeting to officially abolish treaties and tear down the facade of alliance was to have been a summit for heads of state and originally was scheduled for last November.
But Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s host of political and economic crises provided ample excuse for continued delays. Finally, the more reform-minded pact members insisted on action to sever all military ties with a nation that they fear may be headed for a hard-line resurgence.
“We sincerely hope . . . the Soviet Union will remain a state which prefers dialogue to violence, respects her international commitments and obligations and is a cooperative partner in the community of nations,” Jeszenszky said in his speech.
The lower-level gathering obliged both Eastern European desires for a swift end and the Soviets’ insistence that the demise be dignified and discreet.
One point of contention among the ministers was Moscow’s proposal that there be no restitution for investments made by the member nations in the military pact.
But, in the end, the participants decided it was more important to put the pact behind them than to quibble over balancing its bankrupt books.
“What was put in is lost,” said Czechoslovak Defense Minister Lubos Dobrovsky. “There is no point now in posing questions (about) who put in how much.”
Because Moscow always dominated the alliances it created with Eastern Europe, it has been the most resistant to dissolving them, especially against the present backdrop of economic chaos and military confrontations among Soviet republics.
Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander A. Bessmertnykh and Defense Minister Dimitri T. Yazov skipped a press conference attended by their counterparts from Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, highlighting the apparent differences between Moscow and its former satellites.
Officials announced at the press conference that another Moscow-led structure, the 10-nation Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, will not see its planned demise so quickly.
A final session of the organization--also known as Comecon--was to have taken place in Budapest on Wednesday and Thursday but has been indefinitely postponed because the Soviets claim they are not yet ready.
Formal trading rules expired at the first of the year but neither the Soviets nor their Eastern European partners have made much headway in market economics or reorienting their financial ties to the West.
Despite the death of the Warsaw Pact military bodies, which takes effect on March 31, the alliance lives on in a greatly reduced form, primarily at the insistence of the Soviet Union.
Polish Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski observed that without its military might to define it, the Warsaw Pact lacks both purpose and identification.