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

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 44: Report on the State of the Bulgarian Army
in the Wake of the Middle East War, October 7, 1967

The June 1967 Arab–Israeli war came as a shock to the Warsaw Pact. Because Israel was armed and backed by the United States, the performance of the Israeli army in its crushing defeat of the Arabs was seen as indicative of how NATO might perform in war time. At least two high-level meetings evaluated the war's impact from the mili- tary, political, and economic points of view. At a July 11 conference of party chiefs, Brezhnev complained about Middle Eastern clients he could not control: "It's not Europe, where we have the iron thumb."11The document presented here, from the Bul- garian archives, is an assessment of the state of the Bulgarian army in light of the recent conflict. Its firm conclusion is that the army would be entirely unprepared for any such engagement. Extrapolating the Middle East experience to a scenario the Bulgarians might face, Defense Minister Dobri Dzhurov declares that particularly in the case of a surprise attack from Greece or Turkey, his army would be unable to counter in either direction. This view contrasted with NATO estimates from the 1950s, according to which the Greek army was in such a poor state that it would be unable to hold back a Bulgarian assault even for a short period.12

Protocol "B" No. 8 of the meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party October 17, 1967

Agenda:

On the status of the Bulgarian Armed Forces in light of events in the Middle East.

Decisions:

1. The report of the leadership of the Ministry of People's Defense on the status of the Bulgarian Armed Forces has been approved.

The considerations of the Ministry on enhancing the combat readiness and combat capabilities of the armed forces, and the proposals made in this respect during the Politburo meeting shall be taken into account by the Ministry of People's Defense in its future activities.

11 Record of meeting, Budapest, 11–12 July 1967, in The Soviet Bloc and the Aftermath of the June 1967 War: Selected Documents from East-Central European Archives, ed. James G. Hershberg for the conference, "The United States, the Middle East, and the 1967 Arab–Israeli War," Department of State, Washington, 12–13 January 2004, pp. 12–52, at p. 23.

12 John O. Iatrides, "Failed Rampart: NATO's Balkan Front," paper presented at the conference, "NATO and the Warsaw Pact: Intra-Bloc Conflicts," Kent State University, 23–24 April 2004.

-245-

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