The Warsaw Pact will cease existing as a Soviet-led military alliance next year, more than 30 years after it was formed to meet the threat of Western attack, a senior Hungarian official said Wednesday.
The official, who spoke to Western reporters, said the "military aspect" of the crumbling six-nation alliance would effectively be suspended in December, with the cessation of joint military exercises.The pact will be dissolved as a military alliance in June and will continue to function "only as a political forum," he added, without elaboration.
The Warsaw Pact was formed in 1955, in response to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization a year earlier as the Cold War gained force. The two alliances confronted each other until Communist governments were swept from power across most of East Europe last year.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, appeared to be indirectly elaborating on past comments by leaders of newly democratic East European countries, who have been pushing for a transformation of the alliance to reflect new political realities.
President Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia said last week that the pact's military structure would be abolished. It will instead be transformed into a body with a "consultative political function," he said, according to CTK, the Czechoslovak state news agency.
Havel gave no dates but said the "essential transformation" would be completed by a top-level Warsaw Pact meeting that was originally slated for Saturday in Budapest but has been postponed until after Nov. 19.
That is when the 34 nations of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe will hold a summit in Paris. The nations are set to sign a major East-West conventional arms reduction agreement.
Hungary has already served notice that it will leave the military part of the Warsaw Pact next year if it is not dissolved by then.