The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By Jaromír Navrátil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 92: Leonid Brezhnev's Speech at a Meeting
of the "Warsaw Five" in Moscow, August 18,1968 (Excerpts)

Source: ÚSD, Sb. KV, Z/S 22; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 2, pp. 192–210.

One day after the Politburo decision to use military force, and two days prior to the invasion, Leonid
Brezhnev delivered this keynote speech at a hastily convened meeting of the "Five "Warsaw Pact leaders
in Moscow. The Soviet leader used this opportunity not only to spell out the rationale for the invasion, but
to explain why the USSR had delayed up until this point. Even the "healthy forces" in the CPCz believed
it made sense initially to try to enlist Dubček to their cause, Brezhnev states, according to the transcript:
Only "after a long period, when they became convinced that Dubček had failed to support the healthy
forces … and had actively joined the rightist forces," did they find it necessary to appeal for external
military assistance. Brezhnev also points out that it would have been difficult for the "Five "to do anything
earlier because the "healthy forces" had been slow in closing ranks. Not until very recently, he argues,
had the pro-Moscow forces advanced beyond their earlier "vacillations" and "hodgepodge of plans."

During his speech Brezhnev reads a ciphered cable from the Soviet ambassador in Prague, Stepan
Chervonenko, which arrived only a few hours before the meeting of the East European leaders. The cable,
which recounted Chervonenko's latest meeting with Alois Indra and Oldřich Pavlovský at the Soviet
embassy on August 17, indicates that the plan devised by the "healthy forces" to take power with Soviet
military backing remained hazy and contingent. Indra and Pavlovský said they might "possibly "ask Černík
to form a new government after the Soviet army entered Prague and would seek to have ČSSR Defense
Minister Martin Dzúr remain in his post. Rather than work out a fall-back plan in case "Černík refuses "
and "Dzúr wavers," the "healthy forces" hoped they could devise new arrangements on the spot, taking
account of "the way things have progressed. "

Although Chervonenko's cable reflects an optimism that the "healthy forces" would likely suc-
ceedprovided that they received adequate military backing from the Soviet UnionBrezhnev's speech
conveyed a far more sober uncertainty of whether the "healthy forces" would "remain united to the end,"
much less whether they would be able to implement their proposals.

"Brezhnev begins with an overview of events after Čierna nad Tisou and Bratislava and previously voiced complaints about Czechoslovakia's failure to fulfill its "commitments.""93

All of us had counted on serious changes in the actions of the CPCz CC Presidium and had expected that events would be turned around in a way that would reflect our joint declaration.

Unfortunately, we must affirm that this didn't happen. It is clear to all of us that the attacks of the Right not only haven't ceased, but in some respects have grown even stronger, that anti-socialist tendencies have not weakened, that attacks and slander against the Soviet Union and the other fraternal countries have not been curbed, and that attacks and slanderous denunciations against the healthy forces in the CPCz have also continued.

During this period there was the unprecedented incident of a witch-hunt against workers in the "Auto-Praha" factory; many of them have to have been thrown out of the trade unions and even fired because they signed the well-known letter published in our paper Pravda. It should be emphasized that the instigator of all this turned out to be Císař, the infamous anti-Leninist and anti-Marxist. He was the one who showed up at the factory at that particular moment.

93 A transcript of the session first became publicly available in mid-1990 at the Modem Records Archive (Archiwum
Akt Nowych) in Warsaw. The Russian government turned over a copy of its own 57-page transcript of the meeting to the
Czechoslovak commission in 1992. The translation here was initially done from the Polish record of the meeting, but it
has been adjusted in a few places to conform with the authoritative Russian text.

-395-

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