Ranks or Drifting Apart? The Warsaw Pact on Thin Ice (1961–1969)
by Laurien Crump
‘If interests and ambitions conflict, the absence of crises is more worrisome than their recurrence.’
Stigmatized as a ‘cardboard castle’ by NATO officials upon its conception in 1955, the Warsaw Pact (WP) nevertheless seemed to mature into such a serious alliance during the 1960s that even NATO began to recognize it as its legitimate counterpart in 1969.  and that there was more ‘room for maneuver’ by the end of the decade.  The increase in dissent correlated with an increase of initiative on the part of the non-Soviet Warsaw Pact (NSWP) countries, which started to assert their own interests and free themselves from the Soviet grip. This article will explore the extent to which the crises and internal disagreements that the WP was confronted with from 1961–69 inadvertently contributed to the emancipation of the WP in general and the NSWP members in particular.  I propose the term ‘dynamics of dissent’ to assess the way in which intra-bloc conflicts opened a window of opportunity for the NSWP leaders.
The purpose of this article is twofold. On the one hand, it serves to question prevailing assumptions within historiography, by illustrating that the WP was by no means a mere transmission belt of the Soviet Union.  Examining the way in which the individual allies dealt with these intra-bloc conflicts from an emphatically multilateral perspective, it will analyze how the dynamics of dissent ultimately transformed the alliance from an instrument of Soviet power to an alliance in its own right, which stimulated the emancipation of the Soviet satellites.  On the other hand, it aims to shed some more light on such key issues within the Cold War as the Sino-Soviet rift, the Berlin Crisis, and the appeal for a European Security Conference from a novel perspective.  In order to do justice to the Cold War context in which the WP emancipation occurred, these issues will be addressed thematically. If it turns out that the NSWP countries have made a significant contribution to such pivotal issues, even at the expense of the SU, then the Waltzian claim that ‘[a]lliance leaders are free to follow their own line' within a bipolar world, and the implication that allies are only of secondary importance, is undermined.
The dynamics within the WP are particularly interesting in the 1960s, because the alliance was learning to respond to a wide range of conflicts. This article is divided into three parts, which cover the periods of 1961–4, 1965–8, and the year 1969, respectively. We have chosen 1961 as a starting-point, since it is the year in which Albania unprecedentedly used the WP as an instrument to challenge Soviet authority, and in which the East German leader Walter Ulbricht was the first NSWP leader to attempt to convene a PCC meeting. The dissent that erupted in the latter half of the 1960s thus began to simmer below the surface in 1961, and already resulted in a more critical stance of several NSWP leaders towards Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev up to his downfall in 1964.
Whereas the abovementioned period witnessed the emancipation of several individual NSWP leaders, the period from 1965 to 1968 heralded the emancipation of the WP as an alliance in its own right, and will therefore be covered in the second part of my article.  Although the period 1965–8 is generally regarded as the WP’s ‘gravest crisis’,  with the PCC meeting in 1965 as ‘turning point’ in the eruption of dissent, it also served further NSWP emancipation. This culminated in the PCC meeting in 1969, which shall therefore be treated separately: It contained the simultaneous denouement of all the conflicts that had dominated the WP in the second half of the 1960s, such as WP reforms and the appeal for a European Security Conference, and eventually transformed dissent into consensus.
Despite increasing dissent among WP members, even the notorious maverick Romania ultimately agreed to the reorganization of the WP during the PCC meeting in 1969, and the WP members unanimously approved the appeal for a European Security Conference, which would pave the way for the CSCE conference and the adoption of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975. The weakening Soviet grip on the other WP countries culminated in the endorsement of two proposals without Soviet origins in 1969: the proposals about a European Security Conference and further institutionalization of the WP had originated in Poland and Hungary, respectively.  Whereas Khrushchev had spectacularly miscalculated the international situation with a naively optimistic view in 1960,  the WP’s appeal for a European Security Conference in 1969 testified to a much more realistic assessment of the international situation, and – in an unprecedented step – set no preconditions for its convention. Far from being destructive, dissent thus seemed to have yielded constructive results.
In the following, three levels will be distinguished at which the alliance was challenged: At the intra-WP level, the European level, and the global level. This will allow me to evaluate whether dissent served the emancipation of the NSWP countries at each level. If this proves to be the case, then one may posit that dissent intrinsically provides the members of an alliance with a window of opportunity for the pursuit of their own interests, even – pace Waltz – at the expense of the alliance leader. In this case, dissent is a catalyst of change, whose dynamics enable the underdog to emancipate itself.
All the available primary sources pertaining to the Political Consultative Committee (PCC) meetings in the period 1961–9 will be used in order to arrive at an analysis of emancipation within the WP in the 1960s.  Although an excellent volume of archival documents  and two recent collections of essays  have successfully addressed the WP’s stepmotherly treatment within historiography,  there is still scope for a more detailed approach to this topic in which the interplay between all WP allies is assessed from a multilateral and primarily political perspective. An examination of the dynamics of dissent within the WP from 1961–9 will also contribute greatly to New Cold War History by using primary sources to reassess the often assumed ‘subservience’ of the so-called Soviet satellites to the SU and to question the supposedly ‘little sense of mutual interest’ within the WP.  An article that analyzes how the increased room for dissent gave the WP allies the scope to drift apart, before they ultimately closed their ranks by approving proposals that would enable them to exist for another 20 years, is thus long overdue. 
Intra-Warsaw Pact Challenges under the Shadow of the Sino-Soviet Split
The smallest WP ally, Albania, was the first to cause a major rupture within the WP’s unified front, which would cast a cloud over the alliance throughout the 1960s. Albania’s Stalinist leadership, headed by Joseph Stalin’s admirer Enver Hoxha, had not at all been pleased with Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization, which jeopardized the legitimacy of the Albanian leaders’ power, nor did it favor Khrushchev’s rapprochement with Tito, since the Albanian leadership lived under constant threat of domination by its much bigger neighbor, Yugoslavia. Although membership in the WP had provided Albania with the promise of allied protection of its borders, Khrushchev’s revised foreign policy ‘undermined the Albanian raison d’être for improved relations with the Soviet Union’.  United with the Chinese by their distrust of both ‘peaceful coexistence’ and ‘de-Stalinization’, the Albanian leaders were the only European Communists to support their Chinese colleagues against Khrushchev’s condemnation of Beijing during the Romanian party congress in June 1960. This stance marked not only the beginning of the Sino-Soviet Split, but also the first crack within the WP, since its smallest member had openly sided with its rival power. Chinese ascendancy had provided the Albanians with an alternative protector of their own interests, without incurring blame for leaving the Communist camp. On the contrary: While hiding comfortably behind China’s back, the Albanian leadership could now blame the Kremlin from straying from the true path of Communism.
It is only against this backdrop that one can make sense of the Albanian defiance of Soviet power in 1961, which was triggered by the Albanian leadership’s failure or perhaps even refusal to inform the WP of an allegedly foiled invasion by Greece and Yugoslavia in 1961. In response, the Kremlin had withdrawn its ships from the Albanian naval base at Vlorë, which in turn led to further animosity between both countries. Instead of trying to court the favor of its erstwhile Soviet protector, Albanian Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu sent a 16-page invective to the Soviet leadership in which he used a ‘vast majority of incidents [...] of a rather trivial nature’ to blame the ‘Soviet personnel’ at Vlore for their ‘contemptuous’ and ‘condescending and scornful attitude’, which seemed in fact a metaphor for the Albanian leaders’ displeasure with the Kremlin itself.  In addition to reversing the conventional roles by rebuking the Kremlin, the Albanian leadership used the Warsaw Treaty as a stick to hit the SU. In a letter to Andrei Grechko, the WP’s Soviet supreme commander, the Albanian minister of defense stressed Albanian loyalty to the WP while criticizing the Soviet leadership for its ‘dangerous and rather arduous path, which is fully incompatible with the great responsibility entrusted to you by all the Warsaw Treaty member states’.
The Warsaw Treaty thus backfired at the SU, since it enabled the Albanian leadership to use the Soviet ‘responsibility’ as leverage over the SU, whereas it left the SU incapacitated, because there were no provisions within the Warsaw Treaty for such dissent. Although highly provocative, the letter clearly stated that Albania had no intention of leaving the WP. The other WP countries did, however, also use the Warsaw Treaty as an instrument for expressing their displeasure with the Albanian attitude. The issue was seriously considered at the subsequent PCC meeting from 28–9 March 1961, and a resolution was drafted in which the rest of the WP strongly censored the Albanian leadership for taking steps that did not correspond to the Warsaw Treaty.
There are several striking aspects about the Albanian situation, which would become recurrent themes within the WP, especially regarding Romania’s behavior in the second half of the 1960s. Firstly, despite grave disagreements, the Albanian leadership wanted to stick with the WP, which undermines the numerous assumptions of the WP as an ‘involuntary alliance’.  Secondly, the other WP countries immediately rallied behind the SU in the face of such insolence. Although dissent was tolerated within the WP, disrespect towards the organization was severely condemned by all the other members. The anti-Albanian resolution was mainly a signal to treat the WP with due respect. Thirdly, the WP was, in fact, powerless in the face of Albanian insolence, apparently unable to exclude Albania from the WP, and perhaps also reluctant to do so, since that would have driven the Albanian leadership even further into China’s arms.
Here there was a very small tail wagging a much bigger dog, since the Albanian leadership exposed the WP’s inability to respond effectively to dissent. Although the WP was able to employ a number of procedural matters in order to ban Albania from the following PCC meetings, it was unable to exclude Albania from the WP altogether.  Even though the Albanian defiance at this stage still faced a unified front of all the other WP members, it also proved that it was possible to undermine the SU’s authority with relative impunity. The Albanian leadership had opened a window of opportunity, which expanded the prospects for the WP to serve no longer only as a transmission belt for the SU’s directives, but also as a platform on which the NSWP countries asserted their own interests at Soviet expense. The Albanian precedent, indirectly enabled by the incipient Sino-Soviet split, had thus increased the NSWP states’ room for maneuver. 
The indignation of the ever-loyal Bulgarian party leader Todor Zhivkov was illustrative of the WP’s displeasure with the Albanian attitude. He considered the Albanian leadership’s failure to inform the WP about the alleged invasion a ‘rude violation of Albania’s allied duties’, since an invasion of Albania would imply an ‘invasion [...] against the entire socialist camp’.  In the ensuing communiqué, any reference to the Albanian dissent was, however, conspicuous by its absence, which underlines the embarrassment the Albanian attitude caused within the WP. It was, of course, particularly painful that the smallest Soviet satellite had successfully defied the alliance leader, while capitalizing on the way in which the SU’s embryonic enmity with China had already undermined the Soviet claim as the unquestioned leader of the Communist camp. With the increase of dissent, the gap between public relations and political reality had widened.
The unsuitability of the Warsaw Treaty for coping with a change in its membership also became apparent in the WP’s reaction to the Mongolian application to the WP in 1963. While the Sino-Soviet rift was deepening, the request of the Mongolian leadership to join the WP was a clear expression of its allegiance to the SU, especially considering the fact that Mongolia shared a border with China. The application was strongly endorsed by Khrushchev, and in the first instance seemed a boost to the WP’s strength, making it almost seem an ‘empire by invitation’. In his letter, Mongolian party leader Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal clearly emphasized his appreciation of the WP’s importance,  which once more underlined that there were benefits in voluntarily joining the alliance.
The Mongolian application nevertheless also exposed the WP’s fragility, since it compelled its members to exercise some introspection regarding its functioning, as becomes most evident in the thought-provoking reaction by Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki.  Calling the ‘political consequences’ of Mongolia’s accession as a WP member ‘dubious and risky’, Rapacki put his finger on the most salient problems that plagued the WP’s functioning. In the first instance, he warned of a deepening Sino-Soviet rift, since – considering Mongolia’s geostrategic location – it would be discerned ‘as a step whose thrust is directed against the People’s Republic of China’. As in the case of Albania’s defiance, the Sino-Soviet split again influenced intra-alliance decision-making. Secondly, it would transform the WP from a European Communist security pact ‘into a general security pact for the socialist camp’, which would be ‘a change in the character of the treaty’. Thirdly, ‘the problem of Albania in the WP [would] be brought to a sharp climax’, since its potential veto would ‘have a legal basis’. And last but not least, it could ‘inflame existing differences’ with Romania, which would be likely to develop ‘a negative stance’ on this matter. 
Mongolia’s application thus turned from a potential triumph illustrating the WP’s popularity into a thorny issue. The treatment of this question does, however, also reflect the fact that the WP functioned more ‘democratically’ than it has often been given credit for,  since Albanian and Romanian opposition would still be conclusive. In addition, the Sino-Soviet conflict within the Communist camp caused more concern than the potential Western reaction to Mongolia’s accession. By not mentioning the SU, this Polish memorandum indicates that the Soviet stance apparently did not carry any more weight than that of the NSWP countries, which already implies an emancipation from the traditional concept of the SU as ‘alliance leader’. The impending disagreement on the Mongolian question therefore also testifies to the WP’s strength as a multilateral alliance in which all allies are taken seriously.
At the PCC meeting, the Mongolian issue nevertheless took a different turn, since the Soviet leadership itself unexpectedly questioned Mongolia’s admission, considering it to be in contradiction with the signing of the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty the previous day.  Failing to reach unanimity, a decision on the Mongolian application was subsequently ‘postponed’, and the Mongolian application was also omitted from the ensuing communiqué. As in the case of Albania, the failure to respond to dissent resulted in its denial. Duly stressing the ‘full mutual understanding and unanimity’ and presenting a united front in the face of the Sino-Soviet split, the WP seemed a much more static organization than it actually was.  The upbeat tone of these communiqués might have vindicated the Western view of the alliance as a ‘cardboard castle’, and might therefore have been counterproductive. Behind the scenes, the WP was much more dynamic than it pretended to be, perhaps struggling with the way to accommodate dissent, but allowing it nevertheless.
European Brinkmanship: The German Question as Bone of Contention
The Albanian question was not the only challenge to the WP’s unity in 1961. It was also the year in which the East German party leader Walter Ulbricht began to defend his country’s interests by pushing for a separate peace treaty between the GDR and the WP. Khrushchev had initially set a six-month ultimatum for a peace treaty with Germany in 1958 in order to assert his power in the international arena, but his failure to deliver on his ultimatum, which ‘was ninety percent improvisation’, provided Ulbricht with leverage over Khrushchev. After bilateral consultations between the GDR and the SU on a hypothetical peace treaty with the GDR, Ulbricht decided the time had come to involve the WP allies, and he took the unprecedented step of proposing the convention of a PCC meeting, which had always been an unquestioned Soviet prerogative. Ulbricht’s brilliant move from bilateral consultations with the Soviet leadership – in which the SU was bound to come out stronger – to the multilateral context of the WP facilitated the GDR’s emancipation.
The PCC meeting which was convened on 28–29 March 1961, was, however, not the one that Ulbricht had requested, since the German question was not even included on the agenda. Ulbricht nevertheless still seized the initiative on the German question by stating that the SED had presented the FRG with five points that it had to fulfill as preconditions for a peace treaty. Moreover, Ulbricht stepped up the pressure on his WP allies to conclude a separate peace treaty with the GDR if a general one failed, by underlining ‘die zwingende Notwendigkeit’ to unite in concluding a peace treaty with the GDR. Although Khrushchev’s slightly more moderate stance on the Berlin question still carried the day, Ulbricht nevertheless ‘exploited Khrushchev’s fear that he might “lose” the GDR’,  and managed to entice Khrushchev into building a wall five months later. Khrushchev’s bluff during the Berlin Crisis thus backfired: By turning the GDR into the crux of his international politics, Khrushchev unwittingly transferred some of his power to Ulbricht, which served to emancipate Ulbricht instead of increasing Khrushchev’s power.
Moreover, the very dynamics of the Berlin Crisis served to emancipate all WP allies, since Khrushchev’s call for a ‘united, tight-ranked front also with respect to the peaceful settlement of the German issue’ and his zeal to ‘exchange opinions’ and coordinate ‘appropriate actions’ went beyond mere rhetoric: If Khrushchev’s brinkmanship on the German question were to escalate into war, he would have to rely on his WP allies for military support, which forced him to take them seriously. I therefore agree with WP expert Vojtech Mastny that ‘the crisis would give an impetus for the transformation of the WP from mainly an accessory of Soviet diplomacy to something more akin to a military alliance’, although I disagree that the PCC meeting ‘exposed the weakness of the communist alliance’.  In fact, the way in which the WP members were confronted with dissent strengthened the alliance politically by contributing to the emancipation of the NSWP leaderships and thus making the WP an alliance in its own right rather than an instrument of the SU. Khrushchev’s reversal on the German question in the next meeting of the PCC in Moscow on 7 June 1962,  and Ulbricht’s subsequent challenge of his authority diminished Khrushchev’s power and increased the scope for maneuver of the NSWP countries still further.
In the following period, mounting disagreements between the SU, Poland, and the GDR on the FRG’s potential access to nuclear weapons gave a novel impetus to the scope for dissent. Although Khrushchev intended to detach the MLF Treaty from his policy on nuclear non-proliferation, Ulbricht and the Polish party leader, Władysław Gomułka, strongly opposed the FRG’s access to nuclear weapons in any form, including under the MLF Treaty. Whereas the increasing Sino-Soviet rift had impelled Khrushchev to set his stakes on détente with the West, including the FRG, Ulbricht and Gomułka opposed this ‘potential shift in Soviet policy’, since ‘it threatened the security and stability of the Polish and East German communist regimes.’ For mainly geostrategic reasons, they were not enchanted with the possibility of West German nuclear weapons on their doorstep.
Khrushchev did, however, realize that dropping the prohibition of the establishment of joint nuclear forces in his talks with the US leadership was a sensitive issue in the WP, and particularly in Poland and the GDR. In October 1963, he therefore sent Gomułka a memorandum ‘to know the opinion of our Polish friends’, in which he attempted to justify his change of course on the MLF by assuring Gomułka that the US would not give the FRG direct control over nuclear weapons anyhow. Gomułka was nevertheless not convinced and immediately telephoned Khrushchev with a request to convene a PCC meeting, since he did not consider Khrushchev’s stance to be in line with that of the WP, whose position he accordingly used as leverage over Khrushchev. Ulbricht, meanwhile, stole both Soviet and Polish thunder by proposing his own pan-German arms-control initiative on 2 January 1964, which presupposed the GDR’s recognition. Again, Khrushchev had overplayed his hand: By compromising the interests of two of his WP allies through his intended rapprochement with the FRG, he had inadvertently brought about their assertive stances.
The erosion of Khrushchev’s power was, meanwhile, sealed by his downfall in October 1964, applauded by Gomułka, who reacted by underlining that concerning ‘matters in which our party, our government, our country, are deeply and directly interested, we demand, have the right to demand, and always will demand that these matters be discussed with us and approved’. Practicing what he preached, Gomułka only agreed to Ulbricht’s suggestion to convene a PCC meeting to approve a declaration against the MLF if it was to yield tangible results. The Soviet leadership totally reversed its own policies in response and backed Gomułka’s by no longer treating the MLF and non-proliferation as two separate issues. The conventional power dynamics were accordingly reversed by Ulbricht convening the meeting on Gomułka’s conditions. Although Brzezinski’s concept of ‘de-satellitization’ might be somewhat too extreme, the burgeoning emancipation of the NSWP does seem to vindicate his observation that the ‘satellites’ of the SU had turned into its ‘junior allies’.
A Global Balancing Act: the Sino-Soviet Split and the Cuban Missile Crisis
Non-proliferation was also a sensitive issue at the global level, since it would affect the balance of power between the two greatest Communist powers: although the SU already had nuclear weapons at its disposal, an agreement on non-proliferation would prevent China from developing its own nuclear weapons. Should the SU fail to take China’s position into account, the Sino-Soviet rift could deepen, which would, in turn, put the WP in a more delicate position in relation to China. Gomułka in particular deemed it opportune to advise Khrushchev on the Soviet stance towards China. In response to Khrushchev’s abovementioned memorandum in October 1963, Gomułka seized the opportunity to also advise Khrushchev on the Soviet attitude to China. Encouraging Khrushchev to consult with China on non-proliferation in order to prevent an escalation of the Sino-Soviet split, Gomułka also made the following thought-provoking observation:
At the root of the divisions with the Communist party of China lies in my opinion the fact that the People’s Republic of China was denied the possibility of participating in the making of decisions with regard to important international matters.
Instead of conventionally attributing the Sino-Soviet rift to China’s disagreement with Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization, Gomułka interestingly blamed the SU’s tendency of unilateral decision-making for China’s estrangement, which was a particularly poignant remark exactly a year after Khrushchev’s solo course during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Khrushchev’s failure to inform his WP allies in advance of his brinkmanship during the Cuban Missile Crisis flouted allied obligations within the WP, especially since the NSWP countries would have been expected to be militarily involved if the situation had escalated. After Albania’s failure to keep the WP informed a year earlier had been strongly rebuked by the entire WP, the Soviet lack of information caused its allies, and particularly Romania, to critically reconsider their role within the WP, as emphasized by Romanian Prime Minister Ion Gheorghe Maurer:
Missiles were sent to Cuba. [...] There is an article 3 in the text of the Warsaw Treaty binding all the signing countries to consult among themselves in regard to the most important political international issues. I am asking: wouldn’t these problems require such a consultation?
By neglecting the provisions of the Warsaw Treaty, which the Soviet leadership had largely drawn up itself, Khrushchev primarily undermined Soviet authority. In response, the Romanian leaders even signaled to the US government in October 1963, at the same time as Gomułka’s letter, that they were ‘not an enthusiastic partner of the Warsaw Treaty’ and would ‘adopt a reasonable stand’ in the case of ‘war between the opposite military pacts’, allegedly even declaring Romania ‘neutral’ in the case of war. Romania had, apparently, already emancipated itself beyond Soviet control, although the Kremlin seemed blissfully unaware of this. Flouting Gomułka’s advice that the SU should take the initiative in improving relations with China, Khrushchev asked the Romanian (!) party leaders after their visit to China in March 1964 to ‘propose the signing of an appeal by both countries in dispute, respectively the Soviet Union and China’ in order to ‘encourage the ending of the dispute’, since Romania already had ‘the initiative related with ceasing the polemic’.  Considering the Soviet request an ‘opportunity to mark once again our own line’, a Romanian commission issued a declaration in April 1964 in which ‘the openness of the Soviet side for negotiation and mutual understanding’ was emphasized, so as to expose the Chinese unwillingness to compromise.
Retrospectively, this declaration came to be known as the Romanian ‘Declaration of Independence’, since it was the landmark for its idiosyncratic course in foreign policy, using the proclaimed ‘Soviet [...] negotiation and mutual understanding’ to emancipate itself from Soviet hegemony and justify equal rights for all WP allies. Thus, the Sino-Soviet rift had again contributed to the emancipation of the NSWP countries, since Romania’s involvement as ‘mediator’ had provided it with leverage over the SU. Instead of giving Moscow the moral high ground in its estrangement from China, it further eroded Soviet power by vindicating Romanian dissent. The Sino-Soviet rift had provided the Romanian leaders with ammunition to draw their conclusions from the Soviet solo course during the Cuban Missile Crisis: By allegedly declaring Romania neutral in 1963 and certainly stating its independence in 1964, the Romanian leadership clearly indicated that going it alone was not a Soviet prerogative. On the contrary, Romania would claim this prerogative for itself in the latter half of the 1960s, and would marginalize the SU by doing so, since it would have to mediate between Romania and the other WP allies.
The Polish and Romanian leaders had thus emerged as the strongest players in the first half of the 1960s, after emancipating themselves by asserting their individual stance on the MLF Treaty and the Sino-Soviet rift, respectively. The imprint they would press on the WP’s dynamics in the second half of the decade would push the Soviet leadership, headed by Leonid Brezhnev from October 1964 onwards, to the fringes of the alliance. The German question, meanwhile, had lost its urgency after the Berlin Crisis had blown over, and the East German leadership could therefore no longer count on the undivided attention of its allies. Moreover, the Hungarians would upstage the East Germans by developing Ulbricht’s pleas for more frequent consultations into a Hungarian proposal for WP reforms, thus entering the stage as an independent actor in the second half of the 1960s. The way in which the dynamics of dissent emancipated not only individual WP members, but eventually also the WP as a whole will be examined in the next part of this article.
Intra-Warsaw Pact Shifts: NSWP Emancipation and Soviet Marginalization
The first PCC meeting after Khrushchev’s ouster, on 19–20 January 1965, was not only convened by Ulbricht under Gomułka’s conditions, but also took place in Warsaw instead of Moscow, where virtually all previous PCC meetings had been convened. Moreover, the fact that the Romanian party leader Gheorghe Dej and Gomułka met one day before the PCC meeting underlines how Polish and Romanian emancipation had even deprived the Kremlin of the initiative on bilateral consultations.
During this meeting, the Albanian question was once more the cause of disagreement. After the Romanian leadership had pressured its allies into officially inviting Albania to the PCC meeting in January 1965, the Albanian leadership reversed WP procedures by making its participation within the PCC meeting dependent on far-fetched conditions, such as nuclear proliferation within the WP. Whereas Gomułka called the conditions ‘unprecedented’, Dej emphasized that the previous decision ‘as regards the elimination of Albania from the proceedings was in fact illegal’ and wanted it ‘to be cancelled’. The Romanian leadership used the insolence of the Albanians as a convenient pretext to assert its independence, and as an example for its own behavior. The Romanian leaders nevertheless ultimately agreed with Gomułka, who came out as the winner in this dispute: the ‘PCC Resolution on Non-Participation of Albania in the Warsaw Pact’ was unanimously adopted, and echoed the Polish stance by underlining that further involvement in the WP depended on Albania without preconditions.
Setting a trend for the second half of the 1960s, the Romanian leadership began to assert its independence by never agreeing on more than one issue. Having yielded on the Albanian question, the Romanians refused to give in on the issue of WP reform. Eternally preoccupied with the hypothetical nuclear armament of the FRG, Ulbricht argued that it was ‘notwendig, daß die Staten des Warschauer Vertrages sich regelmäßig konsultieren und enger zusammenarbeiten’ in order to form a united front against the FRG. This suggestion was turned into a proper proposal by Kádár, who had already lobbied for regular consultation of foreign ministers in the past, and who defended his proposal as follows:
The foreign ministers of the NATO countries get together and consult; so do the foreign ministers of the Arab, African, and Latin American countries. We are the only ones who cannot get together. Why? What is happening in this session is a crying shame. Why on earth can’t we get together more often and discuss issues of interest to us?
Kádár was the first to present NATO as an example of WP practice, and it was indeed his ambition to achieve NATO’s level of professionalism, which would contribute to the WP being recognized as the legitimate counterpart of NATO in 1969. Moreover, by seizing the initiative concerning the reform of the WP, the Hungarian leaders created a niche for themselves in which they could develop a stance that was more independent from the SU. Whereas neither the German question nor the Sino-Soviet rift had direct bearings on Hungarian interests, the theme of WP reform provided the Hungarian leaders with an opportunity for emancipation.
A new player thus asserted itself within the WP arena, to be immediately confronted with Romanian opposition. Dej himself emphasized that he did ‘not understand why these new organs are necessary’, since Romania ‘sought to preserve its sovereignty by avoiding regular consultations’. The Hungarian proposal, too, turned into an issue on which primarily the Poles and the Romanians dissented – in both cases, in order to protect their interests and influence within the WP, by either strengthening or weakening it, as Mastny explains: ‘While the Romanians strove for maximum freedom of action by reducing the Soviet role in a weaker WP, the Polish communists sought more influence in shaping Soviet policy through a stronger alliance.’
Moreover, the Romanian leaders used their opposition to WP reforms as leverage over their allies by promising to accept a declaration on a conference on European security during the PCC meeting in Bucharest from 4–6 July 1966 if a discussion on reforms was postponed until the next PCC meeting. According to the Romanian report, this even happened on the initiative of the Soviets, since the Soviet leaders had ‘received a mandate from the [CPSU] Politburo to reach a consensus, and that positions where differences exist be dropped from the agenda.’ During the PCC meeting in Sofia from 6–7 March 1968, a discussion on WP reform was also postponed because of ‘the particular attitude of the Romanian representatives’, and the topic of reorganizing the alliance was accordingly shelved until 1969. At this stage, the Kremlin still attempted to evade dissent instead of confronting it, and as such inadvertently enabled the Romanian leadership to pull the strings. The emancipation of some of the NSWP countries seemed to entail the political marginalization of the SU itself.
Constructive Cooperation on a European Security Conference
Ulbricht had originally convened the PCC meeting on 19–20 January 1965 to discuss the MLF Treaty, but that issue was no longer relevant because it had already been denounced by Gromyko at the UN assembly in December 1964. At that same assembly, Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki had suggested convening a European conference on security with the US, and the Polish leadership cleverly seized the initiative from the Germans by unexpectedly putting the proposal of a European security on the agenda. The Polish proposal was unanimously endorsed and even resulted in a ‘Declaration on the strengthening of peace and security in Europe’, formulated during the PCC meeting in Bucharest on 4–6 July 1966. The unanimity concerning the conference was striking, but one should bear in mind that the Romanian leaders had only agreed to cooperate on the condition that the issue of reform was postponed. Although the Romanian leaders did characteristically attempt to assert their independence by offering a different draft declaration, they nevertheless ‘compromised on their formulations, sometimes after lengthy debate, and agreed with the views of the other countries’.
The declaration did not, however, touch upon any divisive issues such as the Sino-Soviet rift, and its contents catered to the interests of all WP members. In the period preceding the PCC meeting in 1966, the Romanian leaders had publicly advocated the abolition of both NATO and the WP, thus divulging their criticism of their own alliance to the Western media in a way that was also unprecedented within NATO. The declaration’s advocacy of the ‘establishment in Europe of an efficient security system’ and ‘the concomitant abolition of the existing military alliances’  therefore seemed to echo the Romanian view, possibly in an attempt to make a virtue out of necessity: in this way, the Romanian leadership retrospectively seemed to have voiced the WP stance in its zeal to abolish the alliance. The fact that the ‘inviolability of the existing frontiers between the European states, including the frontiers of the sovereign German Democratic Republic, Poland, and Czechoslovakia’ was mentioned as a prerequisite for guaranteeing European security would also have particularly pleased the allies in question. Since the European security conference could serve as an instrument to achieve the diverse objectives of all WP members, it left little scope for dissent.
Global Questions as Instrument for Ceauşescu’s ‘Gaullism’
In terms of the Sino-Soviet rift, however, little had changed since the first half of the 1960s, because the Romanian leadership remained unflinching in defending China at the expense of the WP. The geopolitical nevertheless seemed to turn procedural, since the dissent under consideration resulted in disagreements on the formulation of the alliance’s position rather than its contents. The PCC meeting in 1965 was, accordingly, dominated not by the WP stance on non-proliferation itself, but by its hypothetical inclusion in a PCC communiqué, which Dej considered ‘not expedient from a tactical point of view’, since it could be used against China.  He refused to raise the issue of non-proliferation at the UN for the same reason.
Although all the other WP leaders attempted to argue that non-proliferation could no longer be used against China, since the Chinese had already detonated a nuclear device on 16 October 1964, the Romanian leadership stuck to its guns. Brezhnev’s question of whether the Romanians were ‘subordinating [their opinion] to an understanding with the Chinese comrades’ remained unanswered, and Novotný’s emphasis that the failure to include non-proliferation in the communiqué would clearly signal to the West that the Romanians had disagreed and that the WP was disunited did not convince the Romanian leadership either. Democratic centralism and Communist solidarity had been sacrificed to inter-governmental decision-making. By depriving the WP of conventional Communist dynamics, the Romanian leaders had created a situation which left their Communist colleagues at a loss.
The initial response consisted in bypassing Romania where possible, as appears from Novotný’s suggestion that ‘nobody can prevent the other countries that want this to happen from making such a proposal [about non-proliferation at the UN] in their capacity as member states of the UN.’ By hijacking the decision-making within the PCC meeting with their vetoes, the Romanian leaders had also forced their WP allies to reassess their own stance critically. Although they were compelled to submit to the Romanian veto, and thus indirectly to the Chinese stance on non-proliferation, they decided to meet again the next day without Romania in order to discuss their strategy towards China. This de-facto isolation of Romania adumbrated its exclusion during the WP intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968.
During the next PCC meeting on 4–6 July 1966, another declaration, this time on the Vietnam War, became a bone of contention. The fact that the Soviet, Romanian, and Polish leaders had drafted three different declarations took the WP allies completely by surprise.  The disagreement over the declaration again primarily concerned the tone of the document, since ‘[t]he Romanian comrades were a step closer to the demagogic position of the Chinese.’ The Romanian declaration was more ideological and conformed closely to the Vietnamese wishes, as well as conceding to the Chinese view that the WP should do more about Vietnam. The Sino-Soviet rift accordingly provided the Romanian leadership once more with an excuse to stray from the common WP path. With the new Romanian party leader, Nicolae Ceauşescu, stigmatizing the Polish draft as a ‘capitulation to American imperialism’ and Gomułka calling the Romanian one ‘a rally resolution’, the atmosphere at the meeting was completely spoiled. No room had been left for Brezhnev to support his own draft, since the Poles and Romanians were accusing each other so vehemently of insulting behavior that Brezhnev was forced to act as a mediator instead of as a hegemon.
The other WP allies became rather exasperated when the meeting was still ‘at an impasse’, although ‘over 20 Romanian corrections had already been taken into account’, because the Romanians refused to change their opinion. When Brezhnev reminded Ceauşescu that ‘[i]n the end, even six countries can sign’, Ceauşescu riposted that ‘[t]his kind of pressure cannot be tolerated’, while referring to the ‘principles of equality and mutual respect’ that were also central to the Romanian declaration of independence. These seemingly ‘democratic’ principles could thus be used to paralyze the WP and make the Romanian view prevail. Due to Romania’s threat to publish a separate declaration and send it to all Communist parties, the other WP members were forced to concede to the Romanian opinion, since further public disunity had to be avoided at all costs. Ceauşescu eventually succeeded in asserting his power at the expense of both the Polish and the Soviet leaders.
The Romanian departure from conventional Communist decision-making nevertheless inspired some WP leaders to reflect on their role within the alliance, and reports on PCC meetings began to show an unprecedented amount of analysis. The Hungarian report called the results ‘satisfactory’, but commented that the discussion ‘reflected the not-so-good situation in relations between the governments and the parties represented’. The report highlighted that the difference of opinion between Romania and the other WP countries ‘came up in a very strange way; it emerged in procedural matters’, while observing that ‘the Romanians were waiting for an opportunity to be insulted’. Indeed, global questions seemed to serve the positioning of each WP country within the alliance instead of being considered for their own sake. Foreign politics accordingly became subordinated to intra-bloc dynamics.
The Romanians in particular exploited minimal dissent on foreign politics for maximal gain. Kádár’s colleague Desző Nemes therefore anticipated that ‘in the future we must face the fact that the Romanian position subverts and impedes cooperation’, whereas Kádár observed that ‘the Romanian comrades [...] had modified their stance [...] taking into account the six parties’ unanimous opposition’, since they had decided to shelve other controversial proposals, for example regarding the organization of the WP. Romanian dissidence had inadvertently served to unify the rest of the WP, and forced the Romanian leadership into retreat,  although this was not the way the Romanians themselves viewed it. They concluded that it was ‘the first time that, at such a high level summit, divergent points of view were discussed and presented by the most authorized decision-makers’, and even considered the conference a ‘turning-point’ from where they should ‘draw conclusions about how [such] discussions should be handled in future’.
The Romanian leadership, did, indeed manage to call the shots by insisting on the convention of a PCC meeting in Sofia on 6–7 March 1968 for another discussion on non-proliferation. Desiring to link non-proliferation to total disarmament, Romania was again blowing the Chinese trumpet and attempting to undermine the stance of its WP colleagues, who considered the Romanian demands ‘unrealistic’ and its amendments to the treaty ‘unacceptable’. During this meeting, neither the Romanian leadership nor the other WP leaders conceded one inch. Since the Romanian leaders had already divulged their dissident views on non-proliferation to the public, they had presented their WP colleagues with a fait accompli. This nevertheless did not result in surrender to the Romanian position; instead, this time, the other WP members decided to take an explicit stance against Romania and to publish their diverging view on non-proliferation in a public statement. The potentially far-reaching consequences of the WP’s failure to at least uphold the appearance of unity clearly appears in the following analysis in the Hungarian report:
Thus a situation occurred in which for the first time in the history of the Warsaw Treaty, the public has been made aware of the fact that the member states have different positions regarding an important question. [...] These discussions showed that the recent, pronounced separatist line and the oppositional behavior of the Romanian party and state leadership have caused great irritation to the fraternal parties, especially to the Polish leadership. In this mood the Polish – and to a lesser extent the Bulgarian – party leaders took the position that in this situation we should get rid of the factors impeding the organization’s work by expelling the Socialist Republic of Romania from the Warsaw Treaty Organization.
The WP mask of unity had thus slipped for the first time in what constituted a painful loss of face,  and by openly dissenting, the Romanian leadership had almost overplayed its hand, since their country’s membership was at stake. Expulsion from the WP was, however, more easily said than done, as was the case with Albania, and the Romanian leadership itself surprised its constituency by never even considering a departure from the WP. WP membership provided the Romanian leaders with the kind of leverage that they would not have had outside its confines; Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito, for example, had hardly any instruments at his disposal to influence Soviet bloc policy, whereas a Romanian veto within the WP carried a lot of weight. Moreover, Romanian dissidence seemed to have eclipsed Soviet hegemony by giving the WP an entirely new kind of dynamics in which the response to Romanian dissent took the central position.
The failure to adopt a common stance in public was also reflected in the ensuing communiqué, which no longer included the epic formula about ‘full mutual understanding and unanimity’, but made unprecedented mention of the fact that the ‘atmosphere at the meeting was frank and comradely’. This seems a euphemistic version of the reference to ‘sharp debates’ and the ‘completely opposed opinions’ in the ensuing reports, and also underlines that the dynamics within the WP had changed completely: Dissent had reached a level such that the gap between PR and political reality could no longer be bridged. With a beautiful sense of understatement, the Hungarian report even mentioned that ‘the atmosphere at the meeting was not exactly like a wedding feast’. Acrimony nevertheless seemed to benefit honesty, which paved the way for a more mature manner of decision-making within the WP.
The fact that Romanian dissent was mainly a matter of principle, possibly in order to increase the Romanian scope for maneuver within the WP, became strikingly evident when the Romanian leadership ultimately did endorse the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) upon its signature on 1 July 1968. In contrast to the nuclear test ban treaty, this agreement did, however, contain considerable input by other countries than the SU and the US, including the NSWP countries, which testifies to the emancipation of the WP during the 1960s, and was as such an indirect tribute to the Romanian call for ‘equality’. With both Romanian independence and WP unanimity salvaged, the NPT accordingly seemed to herald a more auspicious period for the WP.
The Denouement: Consensus as Climax of the Roaring Sixties
Several intra- and extra-bloc developments did, however, not bode well for the PCC meeting that was held in Budapest on 17 March 1969. The invasion of Czechoslovakia by five other WP countries on 21 August 1968 to suppress the Prague Spring  underlined not only the potential bankruptcy of the Communist system, but also of the WP itself: Romania had not even been asked to participate, and Albania had officially withdrawn from the WP in protest. Moreover, the PCC meeting in question coincided with a violent clash between China and the SU at their disputed border, the Ussuri River. With both the reorganization of the alliance and the appeal for a European Security Conference on the agenda, the stakes for a successful conference were high, whereas the escalation of the Sino-Soviet rift made it even more imperative for the WP members to close ranks.
Even the Romanian politicians seemed to realize that further isolation within the WP would be counterproductive. Being neither inclined to participate in the invasion in Czechoslovakia, nor invited to do so, the joint effort of the so-called ‘Warsaw Pact Five’ sharply underlined the limits of the efficacy of Romanian obstruction, while also highlighting the willingness of a WP majority to combine their efforts in order to force a recalcitrant WP member back into the WP fold. The Romanian politburo member Dumitru Coliu therefore considered it ‘pointless to raise that issue [his country’s position regarding Czechoslovakia] again since we would risk to be left alone’, to which Ceauşescu replied that they would ‘take note of the mood’. Both the reluctance ‘to be left alone’ and Ceauşescu’s caution were unprecedented.
Meanwhile, Kádár attributed such ‘political significance’ to the convention of the PCC meeting ‘given recent events’ that he emphasized the necessity of ‘intelligent compromises’ in a preceding Politburo meeting, since ‘[i]t should not happen that there are seven of us there, but only six sign.’ The Hungarian leadership had a particular interest in the success of the conference, because it was a Hungarian-Soviet coproduction: it was convened by Brezhnev at ten days’ notice in order to push through the Hungarian proposals concerning WP reforms and finalize the appeal for a European Security Conference, and it took place in Budapest. The Soviet leadership did, accordingly, seem to have regained some of the initiative, whereas the Hungarian leaders cooperated closely with their Soviet colleagues in the bilateral preparations of the meeting, and ‘agreed with the Soviet comrades that though we were the hosts, they should take the task of the political agitation, for they were the only people that could have an impact on the sides present.’
During the PCC meeting in question, Brezhnev emerged as the mediator par excellence, with the Hungarian leadership calling the shots behind the scene. In an unprecedented move, Brezhnev visited all delegations in their hotel rooms the night before the meeting in order to smooth over any disagreements before it actually started, but ‘no matter what room he visited, he found a different position’. According to the Hungarian report, there was ‘no progress. The Polish and the GDR comrades recommended lengthening the drafts and strengthening the wording; the Romanians wanted to cut the content and dilute the text’. At the actual PCC meeting, Ceauşescu put his foot down regarding the formulation of the WP reforms. In order to prevent the alliance from turning into a supranational body, he changed the wording about the PCC’s decision-making to that of the ‘participating states’, thus underlining each country’s sovereignty, while boasting to his Romanian colleagues afterwards: ‘When they brought the document for us to sign, to be sure that that page would be retyped, I crossed it out with a pen to cancel it (laughter).’
Ceauşescu seemed to have the last laugh, but one must bear in mind that his amendments concerned WP reforms, which he had vehemently opposed. Although the Romanian Prime Minister Maurer perceptively remarked that ‘when people face a firmly supported position, they cave in’ , the Romanian leaders, too, caved in during the 1969 PCC meeting, apparently realizing that they had exhausted their dissidence. It was the mutual caving in during the PCC meeting in question that reflected the emancipation of the WP as a whole: Rather than avoiding dissent or bypassing the dissenter, the WP allies had begun to deal with dissent by compromising where necessary in order to reach an agreement that was acceptable to all. Thus, the WP reforms, which made the institution more flexible and equal, were eventually approved, and the Hungarian proposal won the day.
The same applies to the appeal for a European Security Conference. Although the conference had always been supported by all WP members, a consensus now had to be reached concerning the wording of the appeal. With the Polish and Romanian leaders opposing each other as usual, a bilateral bargain between Gomułka and Ceauşescu was indispensable for resolving the impasse: The Polish leaders agreed to sacrifice a strong condemnation of the FRG in exchange for Romanian silence on the invasion in Czechoslovakia. The adoption of the appeal for a conference on European Security was a landmark event, since all WP members had agreed on it without ‘setting any preconditions for the preparatory meeting or for the conference itself’ , which made its actual convention more viable. Having ‘caved in’ to Romanian amendments concerning the reorganization of the WP, the Poles had the last word on the European Security Conference.
The Romanian leaders did, however, habitually present one issue on which they refused to yield. The Sino-Soviet rift again provided Ceauşescu with an opportunity to assert his relative independence, this time by opposing ‘any statement that clearly calls for solidarity of the Warsaw Pact Nations against China’ , despite the dangerous situation on the Sino-Soviet border. With Ceauşescu arguing that the Sino-Soviet rift was not a European issue and therefore beyond the WP’s jurisdiction, his veto proved once more decisive. Since the other NSWP countries had already achieved their aims, on intra-WP reforms and a European conference respectively, no country was eager to allow the SU’s global troubles to jeopardize the meeting. Moreover, ‘[b]ecause of Romania’s stubborn refusal to sign a joint statement containing any language on China, all Eastern European alliance members were actually saved from being drawn into a potential conflict’, as Bernd Schaefer argues. The Romanian leaders might accordingly have done their allies a favor by their obstinacy, and on this issue the SU was, ironically, forced to go it alone, even though it had stopped doing so in the second half of the 1960s.
Conclusion: Dissent as Catalyst for Consolidation
The PCC meeting in 1969 was rightly considered a ‘significant event’ by all WP members. As the Hungarians underlined, ‘the relationship among the member states [was] consolidating’ , and ‘after painful months and years an agreement was made, and a call was accepted’. Moreover, the reorganization and emancipation of the WP contributed to its recognition by NATO as its legitimate counterpart, and the call for a European Security Conference paved the way for the Helsinki Process. Instead of being destructive in its dissent, the WP had been constructive in its efforts to convene the European states for the first time since World War II.
The emancipation of the WP as a whole and its NSWP members in particular nevertheless originated in the dissent that overshadowed the alliance throughout the 1960s, whether at the intra-WP, European, or global levels. After the smallest ally, Albania, had seized the opportunity, provided by the Sino-Soviet split, to break free of the SU with impunity, the other NSWP countries gradually began to appreciate the benefits of an alliance that was voluntary after all. Whereas Khrushchev’s brinkmanship during the Berlin Crisis had already emancipated Ulbricht by enabling him to use the German question as leverage over the SU, the Soviet rapprochement to the US and the FRG by potentially tolerating the MLF Treaty also opened up a window of opportunity for Polish interference in Soviet international relations, which served to strengthen Gomułka’s hand in particular. Meanwhile, Soviet solipsism during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Sino-Soviet rift provided the Romanian leaders with an opportunity to declare their independence and perhaps even neutrality.
It was, inadvertently, as alliance leader that the SU had dug its own grave in the first half of the 1960s by compromising the interests of its junior allies and thus unwittingly involving them in its politics. Romania, Poland, and the GDR accordingly became particularly emancipated during the first half of the 1960s, and in turn marginalized the SU in the second half. Whereas the SU still seemed to determine WP dynamics in 1961–1964, it was no longer positioned at center-stage from 1965 onwards. Although one could argue that the NSWP countries were still firmly in the Soviet grip because of the Soviet nuclear monopoly, its armed presence in most of them,  and its thorough penetration of its WP allies in other respects, this does not at all refute the thesis of NSWP emancipation; on the contrary, it makes the way in which the NSWP countries increased their room for maneuver an even more remarkable phenomenon.
The embryonic emancipation of the GDR, Poland, and Romania resulted in the predominance of the latter two on the PCC scene in the second half of the 1960s. After the Berlin Crisis had subsided and the MLF Treaty had been shelved, Ulbricht’s perpetual concern with West German revanchists turned into an empty mantra. This enabled Gomułka to emerge as the main opponent of Romanian dissidence, and also as a driving force for a conference on European security. Other NSWP leaders began to emancipate themselves, too, by developing positive initiatives, such as the Hungarian proposal for institutional reforms. It is indicative of the NSWP emancipation that the Soviet leaders did not develop any ideas of their own in the late 1960s, but enthusiastically supported and almost appropriated the Polish proposal of a European Security Conference and the Hungarian proposal of reforms instead. The Romanian leadership, meanwhile, mainly called the shots in a negative manner by thwarting other countries’ proposals and inadvertently compelled the WP countries to formulate a response to dissent instead of evading it.
During the PCC meeting in 1969, all dissent ultimately turned for the better. By creating a dynamic of its own and by increasing the self-consciousness of the NSWP countries, it had prevented the WP from becoming fossilized. The Hungarian leaders had developed a particularly flexible way of coping with dissent, and managed to gain support for their reforms by keeping a low profile and being willing to compromise. Although Albania had left the WP for good after the invasion in Czechoslovakia, Romania returned to the WP fold when it realized that further isolation would be counterproductive, thus enabling the unanimous approval of the Hungarian and Polish proposals on WP reform and a European Security Conference respectively, which paved the way for the Helsinki Process. After the invasion in Czechoslovakia and during the escalation of the Sino-Soviet rift, the WP allies had closed ranks. By prioritizing a joint effort to improve both the organization of the WP and European security to suit the individual whims of each WP country, the WP members finally matured into genuine allies.
This article has undoubtedly raised many issues that merit further investigation, such as the interplay between Cold War events and WP decision-making or the motives of individual WP leaders to emancipate themselves from the Soviet grip. I hope, nevertheless, to have illustrated how the WP developed into an alliance in its own right during the period under consideration, and why it deserves to be studied as such. Neither a cardboard castle nor the SU’s transmission belt, the WP’s development into an instrument for the emancipation of the NSWP countries could shed a new light on the dynamics within the period at large. Further research into multilateral decision-making within the WP can therefore contribute valuable new insights to New Cold War History. The alliances at either side of the Iron Curtain merit equal consideration in order to arrive at an analysis of the Cold War that is both balanced and thought-provoking.
 K. N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (New York 1979) 171.
 Cf. V. Mastny, ‘The Warsaw Pact: an Alliance in Search of a Purpose’ in: M. A. Heiss and S. V. Papacosma (eds.), NATO and the Warsaw Pact: Intrabloc Conflicts (Ohio 2008), 143-50, for the WP’s conversion into a ‘genuine military alliance’ (150).
 ‘Note for HSWP First Secretary János Kádár Regarding the Budapest Meeting of the Warsaw Treaty Political Consultative Committee, March 17, 1969’, www.php.isn.ethz.ch/collections/index.cfm “Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security (PHP), www.php.isn.ethz.ch, by permission of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on behalf of the PHP network.”
 V. Mastny, ‘X. Meeting of the PCC, Budapest, 17 March 1969, Editorial Note’, ibid.
 Cf. C. Békés, ‘Der Warschauer Pakt und der KSZE-Prozess 1965 bis 1970’ in: T. Diedrich, W. Heinemann, and C. F. Ostermann (eds.), Der Warschauer Pakt: Von der Gründung bis zum Zusammenbruch 1955 bis 1991 (Berlin 2009), 229.
 See, e.g., J. K. Hoensch, ‘The Warsaw Pact and the Northern Member States’ in: R. W. Clawson and L. S. Kaplan (eds.), The Warsaw Pact: Political Purpose and Military Means (Delaware 1982), 48: ‘The Warsaw Pact’s Political Consultative Committee is not so much an advisory body or a decision maker in military affairs as it is a forum from which to transmit various political positions of the Soviet leadership.’
 Although Zbigniew Brzezinski’s concept of ‘de-satellitisation’ is carrying the increased scope for maneuver perhaps a little too far, it is helpful in contributing to an understanding of the satellites’ emancipation from the Soviet grip. See: The Soviet Union: Unity and Conflict. Revised and Enlarged Edition (Harvard 1967), 434.
 In most monographs on the Soviet Union (SU), the WP is mentioned only en passant, reflecting the assumption that it is an extended arm of the SU. E.g., V. M. Zubok, A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (Chapel Hill 2007).
 Waltz, Theory of International Politics, 170.
 The invasion of Czechoslovakia on 21 August 1968 is not taken into account in this article, since it was not an official WP enterprise. Although Hungary, Bulgaria, the GDR, and Poland participated in addition to the SU, Romania and Albania did not join the invasion. For archival sources on the invasion from the perspective of the five participating WP countries I recommend J. Navrátil (ed.), The Prague Spring ’68 (Budapest 2006).
 Mastny, ‘The Warsaw Pact’, 148.
 The Polish minister of foreign affairs, Adam Rapacki, had suggested the convention of a European Security Conference in December 1964, and the Hungarians had already proposed further institutionalization of the WP in January 1965. Although some historians claim Soviet origins for the Polish proposal, I agree with Wanda Jarzabek that there is no evidence for this assertion. See W. Jarzabek, Hope and Reality: Poland and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 1964-1989, Working Article No. 56, Cold War International History Project (Washington 2008) 6.
 At the PCC meeting on 4 February 1960, Khrushchev had emphasized his confidence in a peace treaty with Germany and his belief that the balance of forces was shifting in favor of the Soviet Bloc.
 V. Mastny and M. Byrne (eds.), A Cardboard Castle? An Inside History of the Warsaw Pact 1955-1991 (Budapest 2005).
 T. Diedrich et al. (eds.), Der Warschauer Pakt (Berlin 2009), and M. A. Heiss and S. V. Papacosma (eds.), NATO and the Warsaw Pact (Ohio 2008).
 Cf. F. Umbach, Das rote Bündnis: Entwicklung und Zerfall des Warschauer Paktes 1955-1991 (Berlin 2005) 3: Umbach calls the WP ‘ein Stiefkind der westlichen Osteuropaforschung’, but mainly deals with it from the perspective of the SU.
 J. L. Gaddis, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (Oxford 1997) 289.
 Even in the recently published and otherwise excellent Cambridge History of the Cold War, little attention is paid to the WP, and common (and often incorrect) assumptions tend to be confirmed without empirical proof. See M. P. Leffler and O. A. Westad (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Cold War (Cambridge 2010).
 L. M. Lüthi, The Sino-Soviet Split: Cold War in the Communist World (Princeton 2008), 201.
 Cf. A. Lalaj, ‘Albanien und der Warschauer Pakt’ in: T. Diedrich, W. Heinemann and C. F. Ostermann (eds.), Der Warschauer Pakt: Von der Gründung bis zum Zusammenbruch 1955 bis 1991 (Berlin 2009) 27-42, for a succinct explanation of the Albanian leadership’s (geo-) political reasons to remain part of the WP.
 Albania had been excluded from PCC meetings since 1961 because the Albanian leadership had refused to be involved at the highest level of representation. In the absence of the party leader, the Albanians had flouted an unwritten rule within the WP. Most WP countries had also withdrawn their diplomats from Albania.
 Cf. W. E. Griffith, Albania and the Sino-Soviet Rift (Cambridge, Massachusetts 1963), 38, for a lucid account of ‘the increased room for maneuver which the public emergence of Sino-Soviet differences gave to smaller Communist parties’.
 ‘Speech by the Bulgarian First Secretary (Todor Zhivkov)’, 29 March 1961. Khrushchev’s failure to appreciate this lesson would cost him dearly in his unilateral Cuban adventure, which also inadvertently served the emancipation of his allies, as I shall explain later. The US, interestingly enough, also went it alone during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
 The fact that Mongolia was a member of COMECON, whereas Albania had ceased to participate from 1962, already anticipated this move.
 G. Lundestad, ‘Empire by Invitation? The United States and Western Europe, 1942-1952,’ Journal of Peace Research 23 (September 1986), 263-277. According to this article, ‘the United States was often invited to play a more active role’ by Western European governments, in contrast to ‘the Soviet Union, which frequently had to rely on force to further its interests.’ The facts that Mongolia ‘pressured the Soviet leadership to take a harder line on the PRC’ and that Cuba intended to join the WP in 1963, an idea that was opposed by Poland, contradict Lundestad’s claim. See S. S. Radchenko, The Soviets’ Best Friend in Asia: The Mongolian Dimension of the Sino-Soviet Split, Working Article No. 42, Cold War International History Project (Washington 2003), 12, and C. Békés, ‘Records of the Meetings of the Warsaw Pact Deputy Foreign Ministers, Introduction’, www.php.isn.ethz.ch
 He did so by ‘attaching great importance to the Warsaw Treaty Organization’ and ‘completely approving of the goal of the Treaty – to secure the peace and security of nations’. See ‘Mongolian Request for Admission to the Warsaw Pact’, 15 July 1963.
 All citations in this paragraph come from the following letter, in which Rapacki advised the Polish politburo against Mongolia’s accession six days before the PCC meeting, which took place on 26 July: ‘Memorandum by the Polish Foreign Minister (Adam Rapacki)’, 20 July 1963.
 The remark about Romania probably refers to the fact that Romania had developed an increasingly independent stance during the COMECON meetings. This is the first time Romania’s ‘negative stance’ and ‘existing differences’ are explicitly mentioned.
 Gaddis, for example, contrasts the ‘democratic empire’, which the ‘Americans constructed’, against the ‘authoritarian tradition’ of the Russians, who ‘knew of no way to deal with independent thinking other than to smother it.’ Gaddis, We Now Know, 289.
 Waltz, Theory of International Politics, 169.
 The SU would seem to be defusing international tension while increasing its sphere of influence by admitting Mongolia to the WP. According to the Hungarian report, ‘[t]he only negative reaction to it was by the Romanians’, who gave ‘a vague and useless reply’, which underlines again that obstinacy (as opposed to dissent) was severely condemned within the WP, not in the least by the NSWP. See ‘Excerpts of Report to the Hungarian Politburo on the PCC Meeting by the First Secretary of the MSzMP (János Kádár)’, 31 July 1963.
 V. M. Zubok, Khrushchev and the Berlin Crisis (1958-1962), Working Paper No. 6, Cold War International History Project (Washington 1993), 12.
 Ulbricht proposed the meeting in a letter to Khrushchev on 18 January 1961, arguing that ‘until now, most of [these countries] have considered the peaceful resolution of the German question and the West Berlin question as an affair which only involves the Soviet Union and the GDR.’ The letter is published in its entirety in: .H. M. Harrison, Ulbricht and the Concrete ‘Rose’: New Archival Evidence on the Dynamics of Soviet-East German Relations and the Berlin Crisis, Working Article No. 5, Cold War International History Project (Washington 1993), 82.
 The American historian Hope Harrison has done particularly groundbreaking research on the way in which ‘the Soviet side [...] opened up the opportunity for the East Germans to wag their tail as an ally.’ H. M. Harrison, Driving the Soviets up the Wall: Soviet-East German Relations, 1953-1961 (Princeton 2003), 7.
 Zubok, Khrushchev and the Berlin Crisis, 10.
 During this meeting, Ulbricht disagreed with Khrushchev that the Berlin Wall had made a separate peace treaty redundant, but the other WP leaders still sided with the Soviet leadership. The ensuing declaration did, however, refer to the WP’s unanimity on not refraining from signing a separate peace treaty with the GDR if the Western powers did not agree on a German peace settlement. Neither unanimous, nor in favor of a separate peace treaty, the gap between political reality and PR had widened still further. The WP again made itself seem much more bellicose and static than it actually was, carefully covering up its internal dissent.
 Khrushchev’s annoyance with Ulbricht was such that he complained about him to Czechoslovak leader Antonín Novotný in a separate meeting the following day, comparing Ulbricht’s ‘manifestations of senility’ with Stalin’s, while also calling his speech ‘improper, immodest, dogmatic, and incorrect’. ‘Extract of Memorandum of Conversation between Khrushchev and Novotný’, 8 June 1962.
 D. Selvage, The Warsaw Pact and Nuclear Nonproliferation, 1963-1965, Working Article No. 32, Cold War International History Project (Washington 2001), 2.
 Ibid., 21.
 Ibid., 12.
 Although the PCC meeting that Gomułka had suggested never materialized, a Soviet memorandum did inform the WP allies several weeks later that Soviet ‘Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko had returned to Moscow’s original stance on non-proliferation’ during the most recent round of talks in Washington. Ibid., 6. When Bonn’s renewed push on the MLF in October 1964 coincided with China’s successful detonation of its own nuclear device on 16 October – two days after Khrushchev’s ouster from power – the fate of the MLF was definitively sealed, and Gromyko officially denounced it during a UN General Assembly on 7 December.
 Brzezinski, The Soviet Union, 433.
 Gomułka to Khrushchev in a letter written on 8 October 1963, published in: Selvage, The Warsaw Pact and Nuclear Nonproliferation, 27.
 D. Deletant and M. Ionescu, Romania and the Warsaw Pact: 1955–1989, Working Article No. 43, Cold War International History Project (Washington 2004) 74. Maurer discussed this with Foreign Affairs Officials in 1964.
 Romanian Foreign Minister Corneliu Manescu to US Secretary of State Dean Rusk on 4 Oct. 1963. Ibid., 64.
 See R. L. Garthoff, When and Why Romania Distanced Itself from the Warsaw Pact, Cold War International History Project (Washington 1995) 11. There is no evidence for this suggestion in Romanian archives. Cf. Deletant and Ionescu, Romania and the Warsaw Pact, 65.
 Gomułka advised Khrushchev on the Sino-Soviet rift in the abovementioned letter, written on 8 October 1963, published in: Selvage, The Warsaw Pact and Nuclear Nonproliferation, 29: ‘I do not believe that any attempt or form of mediation on the part of a party that does not share the CCP’s ideological views will be positive for improving relations between the CPSU and the CCP. It would be best if the CPSU itself would present a concrete initiative in this matter.’ Traditional alliance relations, accordingly, seemed to be turned upside down, with a junior ally calling the shots by urging the alliance leader to take the initiative.
 Deletant and Ionescu, Romania and the Warsaw Pact, 70.
 Maurer quoted ibid., 71.
 Ibid., 72.
 Ibid., 73.
 According to Eastern European diplomats in China in the 1960s, the Chinese leadership actively attempted to emancipate the NSWP countries from the Soviet grip so as to weaken the SU, since it ‘acted on the assumption that the [East European] countries [...] had interests of their own that could be exploited by China to help isolate the Soviet Union’. X. Liu and V. Mastny (eds.), ‘China and Eastern Europe, 1960s–1980s. Symposium Proceedings: Reviewing the History of Chinese-East European Relations from the 1960s to the 1980s, Beijing, 24–26 March 2004’, Zürcher Beiträge zur Sicherheitspolitik und Konfliktforschung 72 (November 2004), 10.
 It had been preceded by the first meeting of the WP’s Deputy Foreign Ministers, which was also held in Warsaw. The meeting of deputy foreign ministers was, though informal, the first instance of de-facto WP reform and diminished Soviet influence. It was convened under pressure of primarily the Polish and Hungarian allies, and particularly Kádár, who had already emphasised in 1963 that ‘the point is that there must not be a case when the Soviet government publishes various statements and the other governments learn about them in the newsarticle’. See C. Békés, ‘Records of the Meetings of the Warsaw Pact Deputy Foreign Ministers, Introduction’.
 ‘Note by the Albanian Government to the PCC’, 15 January 1965. The Albanian government also criticized the Soviet predominance within the WP and blamed the NSWP countries for allowing the SU to perpetrate ‘hostile acts’ towards Albania, thus indirectly blaming them for enabling Soviet dominance, too.
 ‘Memorandum of Discussion between First Secretary of the PZPR (Wladyslaw Gomulka), Polish Prime Minister (Józef Cyrankiewicz), First Secretary of PCR (Gheorghe Gheorgiu-Dej) and Romanian Prime Minister (Ion Gheorghe Maurer)’, 18 January 1965.
 ‘Speech by the East German Head of State (Walter Ulbricht)’, 19 January 1965.
 Ironically, the WP did seem to follow NATO’s practice to some extent, since NATO faced a crisis, too, halfway through the 1960s, in which de Gaulle posed a challenge, similar to Ceauşescu’s. Unlike the WP crisis, the one within NATO (incl. the role of both de Gaulle and the small member states) has been extensively researched. Cf. A. Locher, Crisis, What Crisis? NATO, de Gaulle, and the Future of the Alliance, 1963-1966 (Baden-Baden 2010).
 The reorganisation that was approved in 1969 consisted of several new institutions, which made the WP more alike to NATO, such as a strengthened unified command, a committee of defence ministers, a military council, a committee on technology, and a statute on the command of the unified forces in peace time.
 D. Selvage, ‘The German Question, 1955-70’ in: M. A. Heiss and S. V. Papacosma (eds.), NATO and the Warsaw Pact: Intrabloc Conflicts (Ohio 2008) 182.
 Mastny, ‘The Warsaw Pact as History’, in: Mastny and Byrne (eds.), A Cardboard Castle?, 27.
 The Romanian leaders seemed to be following a strategy of pushing their disagreement on one issue to the extreme in order to maintain their ‘independence’, while also yielding on other issues so as not to thwart WP decision-making altogether. This deal represented a win-win situation for the Romanian leaders, since they were in favor of a European Security conference and against reforms anyhow, and therefore called the conference ‘valuable [...], both in terms of what has been accomplished, and in terms of what [the other six delegations] could not accomplish.’ See ‘Minutes of the Romanian Party Politburo Meeting, Report on the PCC Meeting by the General Secretary of the PCR (Nicolae Ceauseşcu)’,12 July 1966.
 The declaration’s emphasis on ‘the strengthening of political relations between states’ compelled the Kremlin to provide the NSWP countries with more room for maneuver to cultivate relations with the West. The Soviet allies thus became more independent international agents, and there was little need for dissent as an instrument for asserting relative NSWP independence: The conference’s hypothetical existence had forced the Kremlin to loosen the reins. I agree with Békés that this particularly benefited the ‘weitere Emanzipation’ of Romania, Hungary and Poland. Békés, ‘Der Warschauer Pakt und der KSZE-Prozess 1965 bis 1970’, 229.
 ‘Polish Minutes of Discussion at the PCC Meeting in Warsaw’, 20 January 1965.
 The Polish draft came as a particular surprise, since the Soviet and Romanian leaders had consulted with North Vietnam, whereas the Poles acted totally on their own initiative, which testifies to their emancipation.
 ‘Minutes of the Hungarian Party Politburo Session – Report on the PCC Meeting by the First Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (János Kádár)’, 12 July 1966. According to the Hungarian minutes, all WP leaders held a theoretically almost identical position on Vietnam.
 In an attempt to assuage the anger on both sides, Brezhnev stated that he ‘would not like to start polemics with Cde. Ceausescu, but when he mentioned capitulation it sounded like he was talking about the Polish party, and Cde. Gomulka could have felt insulted’. ‘Polish minutes of the PCC Meeting’, 5 July 1966.
 ‘Polish minutes of the PCC Meeting’, 5 July 1966. This prompted Gomułka’s remark that ‘it was [the Romanians] who were putting pressure on the six parties,’ thus again underlining Polish-Romanian antagonism.
 As Selvage argues, the Soviet leadership was forced to act as ‘arbiter’ so as to ‘[present] a facade of unity at the backdrop of the Sino-Soviet rift.’ Selvage, ‘The German Question, 1955–70’, 181.
 Kádár observed that it ‘also played a role to some extent that there was a unified front against the Romanians without any kind of “conspiracy”. This influenced the Romanians to a certain degree. They are retreating and coming closer without surrendering their independence. We do not know what impact this will have in the future, but it is certain that the Romanians will deliberate upon their experience as we have done and will reach certain conclusions.’ Ibid, id=17949&navinfo=14465.
 This unprecedented failure to maintain the semblance of unity in public is emphasized in virtually all reports.
 Already after the ‘Declaration of Independence’, the ‘inevitable question about “when will Romania leave the Warsaw Pact”’, was evaded by Romanian politicians at public meetings. Deletant and Ionescu, Romania and the Warsaw Pact, 73. Even after the invasion by the WP Five in Czechoslovakia, Romania still decided to stay within the alliance.
 The domination of the PCC meetings by the Romanian rather than the Soviet delegation seemed to make it easier for the other NSWP leaders to emancipate themselves, since they could do so by turning against the Romanian instead of the Soviet leadership while asserting their individual interests, sometimes at Soviet expense, in the process. The reports of the NSWP countries testify to this development: all reports continuously emphasize Polish opposition to Romanian dissidence, whereas the Soviet view hardly enters the picture. The reports also show how Romanian dissent increased the self-awareness of the NSWP leaders, who were forced to consider how to prevent Romania from dominating the meetings and hijacking the decision-making.
 ‘Communiqué on Soviet Draft Non-Proliferation Treaty’, 9 March 1968.
 The five countries in question were the SU, the GDR, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria. The decision-making concerning the invasion in Czechoslovakia also testified to emancipation of the NSWP, since the Soviet leadership came under considerable pressure from other WP leaders to invade. Cf. J. Navrátil et al. (eds.), The Prague Spring ’68 (Budapest 2006) for the relevant primary sources. Romania had always been opposed to an invasion, and it was never regarded as an official WP enterprise, which is why I do not discuss it at greater length in this article. As Romanian politburo member Gheorghe Stoica mentioned: ‘It was not said that [the invasion of Czechoslovakia] was an action of the Warsaw Treaty [per se], but it was seem as the action of five states allied within the treaty and this fact was always in the foreground [of the debates].’ See ‘Minutes of the Romanian Communist Party Politburo Session Concerning the Forthcoming PCC Meeting’, 16 March 1969.
 Interestingly, Emil Bodnaras, the Romanian vice-president of the State Council, told the US Ambassador in 1974 that ‘Romania gave some thought to withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact as the Albanians had done in 1968, but had concluded that it was better to stay inside the Pact’s councils where (...) Romania could at least ask questions and try to keep informed.’ Deletant and Ionescu, Romania and the Warsaw Pact, 83.
 ‘Minutes of the Hungarian Party Politburo Session – Report on the PCC Meeting by the First Secretary of the MSzMP (János Kádár)’, 24 March 1969. The Hungarian leadership was particularly pleased with the Soviet attitude, emphasizing that they ‘agreed with us in everything letter by letter’, and acted ‘very honestly, and we have to say that they had a lion’s share in the convention, the work, and the success of this conference.’
 This coincided with the end of the meeting of deputy ministers of foreign affairs, which started on 15 March.
 B. Schaefer, ‘The Sino-Soviet Conflict and the Warsaw Pact, 1969–1980’ in: M. A. Heiss and S. V. Papacosma (eds.), NATO and the Warsaw Pact: Intrabloc Conflicts (Ohio 2008) 206–218.
 The SU had withdrawn its armed forces from Romania in 1958, which could partly explain the Romanian obstinacy, but as I have shown, Romania was by no means the only NSWP country which became emancipated.