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

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 57: Record of the Meeting between President
Ludvík Svoboda and Czechoslovak Army Officers, August 28, 1968

This internal Czechoslovak record of a meeting following the August invasion shows genuine confusion among senior Czechoslovak military and civilian officials over the reasons for the Soviet-led move. Throughout the Prague Spring, the country's leaders had repeatedly claimed that the party was loyal to Moscow and the socialist camp, and had no intention of leaving the Warsaw Pact, unlike the Hungarian leadership in 1956. (See Document No.3) However, newly available Warsaw Pact records show increasing suspicion of Czechoslovak motives on the part of Brezhnev and his colleagues to a point where they concluded Dubček was simply trying to deceive his Warsaw Pact allies. The fact that several key Czechoslovak leaders including Dubček were actually sin- cere, as evidenced by Prime Minister Černík's plaintive remarks in the document below, illustrates the importance of perceptions and misperceptions during such crisis.

Cde. President opened the meeting, saying: "I invited you at this very difficult time to inform you of my viewpoint concerning the events of the past days. First, I would like to express my thanks, for the army behaved well, was disciplined and discharged the orders of the minister of defense, as well as mine, very well. Our army units did not come out against the Soviet Army. In such a case, the situation would have been very bad. It is good therefore that the army did not contribute to a deterioration of the situation. I would like to be informed by the respective Military District commanders and army commanders about the course of events with respect to their units and what the situation is like nowadays."

"…"

Gen. "Stanislav" Procházka, commander, Western Military District: "The command post exerted enormous efforts to avoid conflicts. We succeeded. Commanding officers, staffs and troops alike discharged the orders of Cde. President of the Republic and Minister of Defense. They were convinced that we had been assaulted without reason, that an injury had been committed." "…"

"…"

Gen. "Jozef" Kúkel: "The troops discharged your orders. Only the final point of the minister's order has not been obeyed—regarding assistance to the Soviet Army (order No. 1). All airfields are manned; elsewhere the situation is really on edge. The danger is that foreign troops do not allow any maintenance of advanced aircraft technology and airfield equipment, so there is a danger of serious damage." "…"

"…"

Gen. "Karel" Peprný: "The Border Guards have been discharging their orders from the very beginning."

Cde. President: "Are you the one who is securing the border?"

Reply: "Yes, except for the departments of border control. From the very begin-

-308-

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