Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact

Vojtech Mastny, Project Coordinator

PRESS RELEASE: 30 May 2001



Secret records of the top-level discussions of the Soviet-led military alliance that was the West's main rival from 1955 to 1991 are being made public on the Zurich-based World Wide Web site of the Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact (PHP)—an international consortium of scholars dedicated to the study of the historical background of European security:

The PHP initiates the publication of records from the meetings of the three key committees of the Warsaw Pact:

  • Political Consultative Committee, where policy issues were discussed at the highest level from the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955 until its collapse in 1991,

  • Committee of the Ministers of Defense, which met every year since 1969 to discuss the military dimension of the Warsaw Pact's rivalry with NATO, and 

  • Committee of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, designed to coordinate the foreign policies of the Soviet allies.

Among the preliminary findings from the documents are the following:

1.   The Warsaw Pact was originally created to ensure Soviet dominance of European security by political means and only later became a full-fledged military alliance.

2.   In learning from NATO's experience, the Warsaw Pact sometimes tried to adapt NATO's features to its own purposes.

3.   The crisis of NATO in the late 1960s was paralleled by a crisis of the Warsaw Pact, both of which led to the consolidation of both alliances just as the crisis of the Soviet system began to set in.

4.   East European communist regimes tried to use the Warsaw Pact as a vehicle of their interests in cooperation with Moscow rather than in opposition to it.

5.   A multinational officer corps owed its primary loyalty to the Warsaw Pact.

6.   The Warsaw Pact leaders regarded NATO as a primarily political threat, to which they were prepared to respond by an offensive military strategy in case of a crisis.

7.   Advances in NATO's conventional rather than nuclear armaments were eventually perceived by the Warsaw Pact as a challenge it was unable to meet.

The publication of the records of the Political Consultative Committee (PCC) starts off with the Committee's first meeting in 1956 and will proceed chronologically in stages. It includes documents obtained from different archives of the former member countries of the Warsaw Pact. 

The over 2,500 pages of the documents of the Committee of the Ministers of Defense (CMD) published on the PHP website are facsimiles of East German records of its meetings, preserved at the Military Branch of the Federal Archives of Germany (Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv) in Freiburg im Breisgau. 

The records of the meetings of the Committee of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs (CMFA) from Czech, Hungarian, and German archives will be added on the website in the second half of 2001.

The online publication of the CMD records is a pioneering venture undertaken in collaboration with the Federal Archives of Germany. The documents, reproduced in their original languages—mostly German and sometimes Russian—are simultaneously available on the Bundesarchiv homepage,

The website is part of the International Relations and Security Network (ISN), operated by the Center for Security Studies and Conflict Research at ETH Zurich in cooperation with the National Security Archive, a nongovernmental research institute in Washington.

For further information, contact the Project Coordinator, Vojtech Mastny, at Mst3696 (at), or Christian Nünlist, Center for Security Studies and Conflict Research, at nuenlist (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