Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact

Vojtech Mastny, Project Coordinator

23 May 2000



The Warsaw Pact's 1964 plan for war in Europe—the most recent of only two such war plans ever released from either side of the NATO-Warsaw Pact confrontation—reaches the public domain for the first time this week on a Zurich-based World Wide Web site created by an innovative international consortium of scholars, the Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact (PHP).

Prepared by the Soviet General Staff and found in the Czech military archives in Prague, the war plan (written in Russian) assumes an initial NATO strike quickly repulsed with a Soviet-led offensive into western Europe, as far as the Lyon area of France within nine days, and most strikingly, the routine use of nuclear weapons by both sides. 

The Web publication of the war plan also includes an extensive secret study prepared in 1964 by the chief of Soviet military intelligence, Gen. Ivashutin, detailing the strategic reasoning behind the plan and Soviet thinking on nuclear weapons, and the only previous Soviet bloc war plan in the public domain, a 1951 document found in the Polish military archives, together with commentaries by the PHP coordinator, Dr. Vojtech Mastny, and other experts.

The war plan was declassified by the Czech government at the PHP's request, and the Ivashutin document was photocopied by the late Russian historian, Gen. Volkogonov, from the Soviet military archives, and was located by the PHP in his papers deposited at the Library of Congress. 

The web site,, is the inaugural publication of the PHP, an inter-national consortium of scholars dedicated to the release of new documents from the Cold War era and the analysis of their significance for present security issues.

The Soviet military doctrine, as explained in Gen. Ivashutin's study, assumed that:

  • NATO's defensive preparations were a sham (p. 15), only a swift offensive operation could guarantee success for the Warsaw Pact (pp. 24-25),

  • the operation was feasible regardless of Europe's nuclear devastation (pp. 18-23),

  • technically superior Soviet air defenses could destroy incoming NATO missiles before these could cause unacceptable damage (pp. 7-9),

  • the Soviet Union could prevail in a war because of the West's greater vulnerability to nuclear devastation (pp. 4-5).

The documents show the shortcomings of the concept of deterrence on which the Western strategy to prevent a Soviet surprise attack was based. While they give no evidence of an intention to launch such an attack, they show how the vast buildup and growing sophistication of nuclear weapons supposedly required for deterrence encouraged the military to believe that these could be effectively used in an offensive war. The Soviet plan is eloquent testimony of this dangerous illusion.

Visit the PHP website at to read the documents in the original and in English translation, find out more about the PHP's other activities, and link with related websites featuring hundreds of other important Cold War documents. This is the beginning of online publication of new sources documenting the military aspects of the Cold War, analyzed and interpreted to help understand their meaning in our time.

The website is part of the International Relations and Security Network (ISN), operated by the Swiss Center for Security Studies and Conflict Research at ETH Zurich as a major Swiss contribution to NATO's Partnership for Peace, and is prepared in cooperation with the National Security Archive, a nongovernmental research institute in Washington.

For interviews, contact the Project Coordinator at at


Sponsored by the Center for Security Studies and Conflict Research of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich,
the National Security Archive at the George Washington University in Washington, DC,
and the Institute of Military Studies in Vienna
In association with the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC, Hannah Arendt Institute for Research on Totalitarianism, Dresden, Institute of Political Studies, Warsaw, Cold War Research Group, Sofia, Institute of International Relations, Prague, Cold War History Research Center, Budapest,
Affiliated with the Partnership for Peace