Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact

Vojtech Mastny, Project Coordinator



Vienna, Munich, Verona, and other European population and cultural centers were to be "completely destroyed," according to 1965 Warsaw Pact plans for war in Europe made public today on the Zurich-based 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,

Found in the Hungarian archives, the documents are vivid reminders of the menace posed by the Cold War nuclear arsenals that Presidents Bush and Putin are only now beginning to significantly dismantle. Also published on the website is a confidential report from 1981 in which Soviet minister of defense Marshal Dmitri Ustinov identifies the Soviet SS-20 missiles as tools of the nuclear destruction of strategic targets in "all European NATO states." 

Although Western European cities were always suspected as being targeted, this is the first time that obliteration of specific cities is confirmed from top-secret planning records. The Hungarian document describes a highest-level command exercise indistinguishable from actual war plans―such as was the 1964 Warsaw Pact plan for an attack on Western Europe published on the PHP website in May 2000.

The main findings:

1. The Warsaw Pact planners never clarified whether the launching of nuclear weapons should precede or follow a surprise nuclear attack by the enemy―the crucial ambiguity that beset also NATO planners, casting doubt on the validity of nuclear deterrence.

2. The Warsaw Pact plans presumed the destruction of Budapest and other Hungarian cities by NATO nuclear bombs but did not elaborate on the consequences.

3. In the event of war, the Warsaw Pact forces were prepared to ignore the neutrality of Austria on the assumption NATO would ignore it as well.

4. The detailed descriptions of probable Western military operations in the exercise suggest its authors having had access, through Warsaw Pact spies, to NATO's top-secret plans for war, none of which has been made public thus far.

5. The plans for nuclear war in Europe remained in effect despite the ups and downs of East-West détente.

Visit the PHP website at to read the documents in the original and in English translation, and to find out more about the PHP's other activities. Introductory essays by Imre Okváth, Leopoldo Nuti, and Erwin Schmidl address the Hungarian, Italian, and Austrian aspects of the Warsaw Pact operations. The Ustinov document was found in the German military archives in Freiburg by PHD coordinator Vojtech Mastny. 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.

For further information, contact: Csaba Békés, director, Cold War History Research Center, phone 1-212-998-3621,, or Vojtech Mastny, PHP coordinator, phone 1-703-469-1777,


Sponsored by the Center for Security Studies and Conflict Research of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, the National Security Archive at the George Washington University in Washington, DC, the Institute of Military Studies in Vienna, the Machiavelli Center for Cold War Studies (CIMA) in Florence, and the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies in Oslo

In association with the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC, Institute for Contemporary History, Munich, Federal Military Archives of Germany, Research Group for the Study of Stasi Archives, Cold War Research Group, Sofia, Institute of International Relations, Prague, Cold War History Research Center, Budapest, Institute for Political Studies of Defense and Military History, Bucharest

Affiliated with the Partnership for Peace Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes