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

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 139: Record of Conversation between
Erich Honecker and the East German Defense Minister
December 4, 1988
Three days before Mikhail Gorbachev's United Nations speech (see Document no. 135), GDR leader Erich Honecker describes for his defense minister, Heinz Kessler, a con- versation he has just had with Soviet Ambassador Viacheslav Kochemasov about the new directions of Soviet policy. The Soviet leadership has concluded that arms cutbacks based on reciprocity with the West are not feasible, therefore the Warsaw Pact must make unilateral reductions, as long as they do not affect defense readiness. Furthermore, the Soviets imply these cuts should take place before the next round of conventional force reduction talks (CFE) in Vienna, otherwise those talks will lead nowhere. The Soviet ambassador pointed out that even after reductions that have already been made, there are still 170,000 more Warsaw Pact than NATO troops in Central Europe. He then informs Honecker that unless there are objections the Soviets plan to withdraw four army regiments, plus a number of tanks and other units not needed for the GDR's defense. Honecker agrees, although he has reason to be worried.On behalf of the general secretary of the CPSU CC and chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, Cde. Mikhail Gorbachev, the extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador of the Soviet Union in the GDR, Cde. "Viacheslav" Kochemasov, informed the general secretary of the Central Committee of the SED and chairman of the National Defense Council, Cde. Erich Honecker, on Sunday, December 4, 1988 about a resolution by the party and state leadership of the Soviet Union applying the results of the meeting of the PCC of the Warsaw Treaty member-states from August 5–6, 1988 in Warsaw.Cde. Ambassador Kochemasov laid out in detail:
It is the goal of the resolution to give a more defensive character to Soviet forces through a developmental process in limited time. At the same time, it has been decided to reduce the Soviet army and navy by 1 million men altogether (500,000 men "each").
According to Soviet opinion, this decision corresponds with the agreement of the PCC meeting in Warsaw concerning the guarantee of a sufficient defense.
Having done so, the Soviet side has taken into account the regulations agreed by the PCC in August 1988, namely undertaking all measures for a reduction according to the principle of reciprocity.
So far the West has not paid attention to the proposed reciprocity with respect to the drafting of disarmament measures.We want to communicate some ideas to the other side in this context, in which we:
will consider the military situation, and will at the same time
draw specific conclusions for the future

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