Initially, Albania's postwar military forces were equipped and
trained according to Yugoslavia's model. Between 1945 and 1948,
Yugoslavia's control over the Albanian armed forces was tighter
than Italy's had been. In addition to having military advisers
and instructors in regular units, Yugoslav political officers
established party control over the Albanian military to ensure
its reliability and loyalty.
Albania was involved in several skirmishes early in the Cold
War. In 1946 its coastal artillery batteries fired on British
and Greek ships in the Corfu Channel. Later that year, two British
destroyers were damaged by Albanian mines in the channel. Together
with Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, Albania aided communist forces in
the civil war in Greece between 1946 and 1948 and allowed them
to establish operational bases on its territory.
Yugoslavia used its close alliance with Albania to establish
a strong pro-Yugoslav faction within the Albanian Communist Party.
Led by Koci Xoxe, the group served Yugoslav interests on the issue
of ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia. It also cultivated pro-Yugoslav
elements within the military and security forces to enhance its
influence. It sought a close alliance, a virtual union, of communist
states in the Balkans, including Albania, under its leadership.
However, when Yugoslavia embarked on its separate road to socialism
in 1948 and was subsequently expelled from the Communist Information
Bureau (Cominform--see Glossary), Albania used the opportunity
to escape the overwhelming Yugoslav influence. The nation completely
severed its ties with Yugoslavia and aligned itself directly with
the Soviet Union.
The shift to Soviet patronage did not substantially change Albania's
military organization or equipment because Yugoslav forces had
followed the Soviet pattern until 1948. Albania joined the Soviet-led
Warsaw Treaty Organization (see Glossary), popularly known as
the Warsaw Pact, on May 14, 1955, but did not participate in joint
Warsaw Pact military exercises because of its distance from other
members of the alliance. Soviet aid to Albania included advisory
personnel, a considerable supply of conventional weapons, surplus
naval vessels from World War II, and aircraft. Albania provided
the Soviet Union with a strategically located base for a submarine
flotilla at Sazan Island, near Vlorė, which gave it access to
the Mediterranean Sea (see fig. 1). Albania also served as a pressure
point for Stalin's campaign against Yugoslavia's independent stance
within the communist camp. Albania preferred the Soviet Union
to Yugoslavia as an ally because its distance and lack of a common
border appeared to limit the extent to which it could interfere
in Albania's internal affairs.
Albania's relations with the Soviet Union were strained in 1956
when Nikita Khrushchev improved Soviet relations with Yugoslavia.
Hoxha feared that, as part of the rapprochement with Yugoslavia,
Khrushchev would allow Tito to reestablish Yugoslavia's earlier
influence in Albania. Albanian-Soviet ties deteriorated rapidly
in 1961, when Albania joined China in opposing the Soviet de-Stalinization
campaign in the communist world (see Albania and the Soviet Union,
Ch. 1). De-Stalinization was a threat to the political survival
of an unreconstructed Stalinist like Hoxha. The Soviet Union cancelled
its military aid program to Albania, withdrew its military advisers,
and forced Albanian officers studying in Soviet military schools
to return home in April 1961. Albania in turn revoked Soviet access
to Sazan Island, and Soviet submarines returned home in June 1961.
Albania broke diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union on December
19, 1961; it became an inactive member of the Warsaw Pact but
did not formally withdraw from the alliance until 1968.
As tensions grew between Albania and the Soviet Union, Albania
had sought Chinese patronage. In the 1960s, China succeeded the
Soviet Union as Albania's sole patron. Albania provided China
with little practical support, but its value as an international
political ally was sufficient for the Chinese to continue military
assistance. China provided aid in quantities required to maintain
the armed forces at about the same levels of personnel and equipment
that they had achieved when they were supported by the Soviet
Union. The shift to Chinese training and equipment, however, probably
caused some deterioration in the tactical and technical proficiency
of Albanian military personnel.
Data as of April 1992