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

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 47: Remarks by the Czechoslovak Chief
of Staff on the Theory of Local War, March 13, 1968

These remarks by Chief of General Staff Gen. Otakar Rytíř are one of several exam- ples of the critical views of various Czechoslovak military and party officials toward the overall Soviet strategy being imposed on the Warsaw Pact. Rytíř's comments are compelling not only because of his blunt language but also because he was not a reformer. His criticism of Moscow's position is based on the belief that its policy under- mined the interests of both Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. For one thing, the defensive tasks assigned to Czechoslovakia within the framework of the Warsaw Pact were, he believed, beyond the economic capacity of the country. For another, the alliance had failed to create effective common institutions for the previous 10 years, and had been particularly negligent in elaborating a military doctrine for the Warsaw Pact. His implication is that the Soviets have their own doctrine and simply presume that other member-states will follow suit.

Rytíř recalls with approval the "doctrine" propounded by Khrushchev, namely that in the event of war the Soviets would be ready to carry out a nuclear strike that would destroy Europe and United States; the result of this plain-spoken warning, he believed, was that no war had broken out. In response, however, the West developed the theory of limited war, which Rytíř refers to as "local war," as a way to circumvent the Soviet threat by allegedly not relying on nuclear weapons in battle. But this new theory "deceived our Soviet comrades," he asserts, because if implemented it would require the application of high technology and highly trained manpower at a level only the West could afford. Speaking presciently, he declares: "This competition we cannot win."

"…"

We are under great pressure; we lack space, material, people. We are in a situation where the task as given to us is beyond the capabilities of our state, be it human or economic resources. Where is the cause, comrades? The cause is, I think, at the heart of the Warsaw Treaty. We have been bargaining for ten years already. Nevertheless, we cannot agree on constituting some kind of entity—a military body of the Warsaw Treaty, i.e. the staff and the Military Council. These bodies should then make an assessment of the Warsaw Treaty military concept as their major issue.

We cannot do without a certain concept. Such concepts must not originate from the Soviet General Staff exclusively, however. Such concepts, since these are coalition concepts, must originate from the alliance. That is to say, the signatories of the Warsaw Treaty must also participate. This is the principal question, comrades. Excuse me, I cannot discuss it widely and in detail for I would be digressing, would be getting into strategic operational plans, and this is what I cannot do by all my, so to speak, efforts, and believe me, sincere efforts, to reveal to you the complexity of this issue.

This is the point, comrades. We could agree on this issue if a body had been constituted. Within this body, we could push through our voice to be heard. We would

-258-

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