A Cardboard Castle? An Inside History of the Warsaw Pact, 1955-1991

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Preface and Acknowledgements

This volume is the first to gather in one place a comprehensive documentary record of the elusive and controversial history of the Soviet-led Cold War alliance from the inside. The product of a multi-year research effort, the book brings together formerly secret records from the archives of every member-state of the communist military grouping. Top-level communications between the alliance's leaders, verbatim transcripts of multilateral summit meetings, and lively discussions inside the various party politburos are among the many previously unavailable materials in this collection. Topics covered in depth include the evolution of the pact from stage prop to fullfledged military alliance; the surprisingly dynamic relations between Moscow and the other capitals of the "fraternal countries," particularly during times of crisis when the Kremlin was pulled in different directions by allies espousing more aggressive or cautious points of view; the upheavals in Eastern Europe in 1953, 1956, 1968 and 1980–81; and the turmoil—this time induced by the Soviet leadership itself—of the late 1980s, which led to the virtually simultaneous vanishing of the Cold War and the Eastern alliance.

The principal catalyst behind this volume is the Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact (PHP). An innovative, multinational research endeavor, the PHP was established in 1999 to encourage increased military transparency in the former Warsaw Pact as well as NATO countries by enlisting research institutes, military historians and archivists throughout Europe to promote the opening of historical records that would yield a broader understanding of our recent shared experience in international security. The PHP's primary institutional sponsors are the Center for Security Studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, the National Security Archive at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., the Institute for Strategy and Security Policy at the Austrian Defense Academy in Vienna, the Machiavelli Center for Cold War Studies in Florence, and the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies in Oslo. Readers are invited to explore the PHP website, maintained by the Swiss Center for Security Studies, at: http://www.isn.ethz.ch/php/index.htm.

As a cooperative undertaking of more than 20 partner institutions, the PHP has collected thousands of pages of material on security-related issues of the Cold War, published a large number of online documentaries on central issues such as mutual threat perceptions and alliance management, and organized several major international conferences on war planning, intelligence, and intra-bloc tensions. Project Coordinator Vojtech Mastny has helped to spearhead these efforts, including visiting all of the relevant archives, negotiating with NATO and former Warsaw Pact officials and organizing research and collection activities. Playing a crucial role have been the dozens of scholars, archivists and former officials who make up the PHP network.

Having already established a major Internet repository of historical records, the PHP decided to produce a traditional printed volume consisting of recently released

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