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

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 27: Warsaw Pact War Plan for
the Czechoslovak Front, October 14, 1964

This now-famous document is the only actual war plan of either alliance that has thus far surfaced in the public domain. Others have either not been declassified or have been destroyed. This is a fully developed scheme as opposed to the imaginary scenario of an exercise. It is not an overarching plan for the entire Warsaw Pact alliance, but one designed for the Czechoslovak front, describing the Czechoslovak army's role within the general operations of Soviet and other Warsaw Pact armies in case of a European war. It shows the considerable degree to which the Soviets had to rely on the Czechoslovaks because of the location of their country and the absence of perma- nently stationed Soviet troops on their territory.19

There has been some debate about the document's authenticity. Why was it pre- served? If it was preserved, was it really a war plan? Certainly, the document describes what should be done in case of war. It also has high-level confirmation: it is signed by the Czechoslovak defense minister and chief of general staff and was intended for the Czechoslovak president as supreme commander. The language was Russian, which indicates that it was approved by the Soviets and had most probably been prepared by them to start with. Also the fact that it was handwritten and not typed shows that care was taken to guard its dissemination. Critics who do not believe it is authentic say that the document is too sketchy, and does not provide enough precise instructions for each unit. The counter-argument is that it may be characterized as a summary of the most important features of the overall plan for the information of Czechoslovak leader Antonín Novotný.

There appears to be no doubt about the intention to put this plan into effect if the right circumstances were to occur. Certainly, there is nothing in the document to indi- cate there were reservations about local unwillingness to do so. At the same time, major questions arise about the Warsaw Pact's ability to carry out the plan because of the extraordinarily swift advance through West Germany and into France it provides for. It anticipates that in just nine days the advancing forces would reach as far as Lyon, in central France. Moreover, the plan presumes that in the course of hostilities sever- al dozen nuclear weapons would be exploded by both sides, yet the operating assump- tion was that this would not prevent the onward movement of Warsaw Pact forces— clearly a highly unrealistic view. Apparently this was not regarded as improbable at the time, or else no one was allowed to ask whether it was feasible or not.

19 Readers should refer to the discussion about this document on the PHP website at http://www.isn.ethz.ch/php/collections/coll_1.htm.

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