Records Sealed Forever?
The Foreign Ministers' Last Decision,
On 25 February 1991, the Warsaw Pact's foreign and defense ministers signed a "Memorandum on the Suspension of Military Agreements Concluded within the Framework of the Warsaw Treaty, and on the Suspension of its Military Organs and Structures". Several paragraphs of the memorandum deal with the suspension of the basic agreements, such as those providing for the unified command or the committee of defense ministers.
In section 3, the ministers lay down the following: "The further use of documents that the Warsaw Treaty ministries of defense received from the unified command of the unified armed forces, and also of documents that the unified command received from the ministries of defense, is governed by consensus between the unified command and the ministries of defense of the member states. These documents must not be given to third parties or disseminated."
The subsequent extinction of the unified command-not to mention the extinction of three of the member states: the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, and Czechoslovakia -created a legal impasse. Since 1991, Russian representatives have emphasized the last sentence of the section. More than ten years after the signing of the memorandum, and in an international setting where Russia has substituted for the Soviet Union, Russian officials, including many archivists and historians, still consider the provision as valid. Consequently, not only specific documents, but the entire archive of the Warsaw Pact in Moscow remain inaccessible to outsiders.
In contrast, without addressing the legal validity of the 1991 agreement, the archival authorities of most other former members states of the defunct alliance have acted as if the provisions of the memorandum were no longer binding, providing access to Warsaw Pact-related documents in different degrees. The exception has been Poland until its new archival law came into effect in February 2002, according to which all records of the communist era were automatically declassified unless specified otherwise. Records related to the Warsaw Pact were not specifically exempted.
It is to the Central and Eastern European governments that we owe the availability of records such as those published in this collection of the Warsaw Pact's Committee of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs.
Agreement Concerning the Cessation of the Validity of the Military Understandings Concluded within the Framework of the Warsaw Treaty and the Dissolution of Its Military Organs and Structures, 25 February 1991
Source: Anatolii I. Gribkov, Sudba Varshavskogo dogovora: Vospominaniia, dokumenty, facty [The Fate of the Warsaw Treaty: Memories, Documents, and Facts] (Moscow: Russkaia kniga, 1998), pp. 198-200.