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

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 56: Report by East German Defense Minister
on the Invasion of Czechoslovakia, August 22, 1968

This report by East German Defense Minister Heinz Hoffmann deals with the invasion of Czechoslovakia. It is an internal report addressed to his country's National Defense Council and although it is undated it clearly was written very soon after the intervention had begun. Of particular interest are Hoffmann's comments about NATO's attitude toward the invasion and about the role of East German forces in the operation. He reports, accurately, that NATO intelligence and command staffs were completely taken by surprise, but he cautions that this does not mean NATO has poor intelligence capa- bilities. Both remarks are fully consistent with what is known from the NATO side.28

"…"

In case of a so-called "break-away" by the ČSSR from the community of socialist states, NATO would, aside from the resulting political effects, gain the possibility of deploying its military units deep in the flanks of the socialist camp.

NATO would thus be in the position to threaten the GDR and the People's Republic of Poland at their southern borders, to split up the compact territory of the European socialist states, and to expand its sphere of control as far as the Carpathians.

According to the plan of the Unified Command and due to the evolving, severe political situation in the ČSSR, which is known to you in detail, a series of staff command and troop exercises of the Unified Armed Forces took place between mid-June and the beginning of August 1968. Staff commands, troops, and special forces of the National People's Army participated in these exercises as well.

"…"

In connection with the counter-revolutionary developments taking place in the ČSSR, which were characterized by the active appearance of revisionist and antisocialist forces, we had to realize with concern in the past few months that the intensity of operational and combat education in the Czechoslovak People's Army, which holds a responsible place in the strategic lineup of the Unified Armed Forces, had fallen considerably.

Furthermore, the safeguarding of the state border between the ČSSR and West Germany has slackened to an extent that abetted the unhindered infiltration of subversive and other counter-revolutionary forces.

"…"

Under conditions in which the NATO states, particularly West Germany, are continually increasing their readiness to commit aggression, these are circumstances that

28 See, for example, records of the meeting of the U.S. National Security Council on August 20, just hours after the start of the invasion, in which the secretary of state, Dean Rusk, opens the meeting by declaring: "This surprises me." Navrátil, The Prague Spring 1968, pp. 445–448. See also Vojtech Mastny, "Was 1968 a Strategic Watershed of the Cold War?" Diplomatic History 29, no. 1 (2005): 149–77.

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