Manpower, barbed wire, and electronics--important elements of
national security in Czechoslovakia
THE CZECHOSLOVAK PEOPLE'S ARMY of the late 1980s comprised
and air forces under the supervision of the Ministry of National
Defense. The ground forces accounted for about 70 percent of the
total strength of the forces, which in early 1986 was slightly
more than 200,000. The armed forces that constitute the people's
army have been committed by treaty to the Eastern Europe-Soviet
alliance known as the Warsaw Pact. Another military force, the
Border Guard, which patrols the country's frontiers, was
supervised by the Ministry of Interior, as were two paramilitary
police forces--Public Security and State Security--and a
part-time, national guard force known as the People's Militia.
Manpower for the armed forces and the Border Guard was obtained
through a system of universal male conscription; service in the
other organizations was voluntary. Women also served in the armed
forces and the police forces in small numbers but were not
subject to conscription.
All the forces underwent a political purge after the short
period of reform in the late 1960s that culminated in an invasion
by the armies of five other Warsaw Pact members. The greatest
personnel loss at that time occurred in the army, where large
numbers of officers who had supported the reform movement either
voluntarily resigned or were forced out; the other services were
similarly affected, but to a lesser degree. Western analysts
disagreed about whether the armed forces had recovered their preinvasion size, quality, or morale by the late 1980s. Some Western
analysts also questioned the reliability of the Czechoslovak
forces, but others were convinced that the forces would honor
their commitment to the Warsaw Pact if called upon.
Five Soviet ground divisions remained in Czechoslovakia after
the departure of the other Warsaw Pact invasion forces in 1968.
After nearly two decades, these Soviet forces had become an
integral part of the Warsaw Pact defenses in the area, but for
many Czechoslovaks their presence was still a cause of
resentment. In guarded moments, some citizens have referred to
the Soviet forces as an army of occupation. The leaders of the
government and the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, however,
have been obsequious in their contacts with Soviet officials and
periodically have even thanked the invaders for having shown
Czechoslovakia the error of its ways. Marked public unease was
also evident in 1983 when the Soviet Union began deploying
operational-tactical missiles in Czechoslovakia.
The Czechoslovak munitions industry, which was already well
developed when the country was a part of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire, continued to produce arms and military equipment in the
1980s. The Skoda armament works of Plzen was famous long before
World War I, and the British Bren gun of World War II fame was
originally developed in Brno, from which its name was derived.
Skoda and other manufacturers of munitions have maintained a
reputation for quality during the communist era, and
Czechoslovakia has become a major supplier of arms to Third World
countries. The industry also has supplied weapons and equipment
for the country's own forces and for other Warsaw Pact forces.
Production has included small arms, machine guns, antitank
weapons, armored vehicles, tanks (of Soviet design), and jet
Data as of August 1987