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

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 15: Czechoslovakia's Strategic
Position in a European War, April 1961

This lecture is intended to acquaint officers of the Czechoslovak General Staff with the Soviet view of what the next European war might look like. In this scenario, Czecho- slovakia is especially important because of its location. Exposed geographically, it would have to fight alone, at least at the beginning, because its allies would be able to arrive only after several days. Interestingly, the Soviets expect the Czechoslovaks to be able to handle matters on their own to a considerable extent. There is nothing in the document about any pursuit of the enemy further west.

Task and position of Czechoslovakia in the early stages of war

"…"

When estimating the direction of individual operations, the main one to be taken by the enemy's eastbound aggression will be Berlin–Warsaw. Our geographic position covers a very important auxiliary direction for an eastbound strike—from Nuremberg to Prague and Ostrava, the importance of which is that it makes it possible to strike at the flank and rear of the main operational concentration defending the Berlin–Warsaw direction.

The traditional notion of Czechoslovakia as the heart of Europe is generally still valid from the viewpoint of operations. If the enemy conquers our territory, he can penetrate the Łódź–Ostrava area rather swiftly. Then he could strike at the flank and rear of the Berlin-Warsaw concentration, plus he would gain a valuable platform for the eastbound strike. The Pilsen–Ostrava route is rather short and therefore advantageous. Disregarding Austrian neutrality already in the initial phase by advancing in the Hollabrunn–Ostrava direction is even more advantageous for penetrating into the Łódź–Ostrava area. A strike in this direction would split Czechoslovak strategic forces and create conditions for the liquidation of our Prague concentration.

This means that we are firmly established in the strategic echelon. Our geographic position, plus the way in which we shall carry out the task of fighting off the aggressor would be decisive in creating conditions for other Warsaw Treaty states, including the USSR, to ward off aggression against them.

When comparing our geographic position from the viewpoint of other states, we may see then that Poland lies some 300–800 km from the aggressor's starting area, with Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria lying still farther away. The latter two are, moreover, protected by sea, and are closer in terms of time to "receiving" Soviet army assistance.

On the other hand, even with strenuous transfers, allied forces may appear on our territory only after several days.

-118-

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