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Czechoslovakia

 
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Czechoslovakia

"Normalization"

It was not until October 16 that agreement was reached for the partial withdrawal of the Warsaw Pact armies. The Soviet Union made a big show over the agreement, sending Premier Aleksei Kosygin to Prague as leader of a high-level delegation to observe the ceremony. Czechoslovak joy was tempered by the knowledge that a sizable army of occupation would remain after the bulk of the invading force had departed. The Bulgarian, East German, Hungarian, and Polish troops were ordered to leave the country, but Soviet units were to remain in what was referred to as "temporary stationing." In the agreement, Czechoslovakia retained responsibility for defense of its western borders, but Soviet troops were to be garrisoned in the interior of the country. As events transpired, however, the major Soviet headquarters and four of its five ground divisions were deployed in the Czech Socialist Republic, where they remained in mid-1987.

During the talks leading to the agreement, the Soviet negotiators pressed their Czechoslovak counterparts to reduce the size of the CSLA by eliminating the personnel who had supported the Dubcek regime. Yet the subsequent force reduction was caused by more than direct Soviet pressure. Dubcek's Prague Spring and the subsequent invasion by Warsaw Pact allies had had many ramifications within the armed forces, particularly among the professionals of the officer corps and the NCO corps. In the year preceding the ouster of Antonin Novotny, the first secretary of the KSC, definite schisms had occurred between those officers supporting the old order and those favoring the reform movement. In February 1968, shortly after Dubcek had replaced Novotny as first secretary, Major General Jan Sejna defected to the West. He revealed that he and other hard-line communists had planned to keep Novotny in office, by force if necessary, but the plan fell through when the Presidium voted to oust Novotny. The political dichotomy in the military led to a great thinning of the ranks after the downfall of Dubcek and the rise to power of Gustav Husak in early 1969.

Once its power was consolidated, the Husak government sought to re-establish party control over the armed forces and to ensure their full integration into a Warsaw Pact dominated by the Soviet Union. The Klement Gottwald Military Political Academy--the center of the military debate of the mid-1960s--was temporarily closed, and the CSLA officer corps was purged. When the purge was completed in 1975, some 11,000 officers and about 30,000 NCOs had been dismissed. Officer strength in the army was reduced by onethird and in the air force by one-half. Demoralization also contributed to this dramatic decrease. In the months following the invasion, nearly 58 percent of all army officers under 30 years of age resigned, and by June 1969 an estimated 50 percent of all students in the country's military academies also had resigned. In order to overcome this drastic reduction in manpower, the qualifications--whether educational or otherwise-- for officer candidates were lowered, and at least some candidates were rushed through officer training school in half the normal time. Substantial material and career incentives were used to entice young people into the ranks of officers. The effect of these measures was difficult to assess precisely, but it was clear that their effect must have been minimal. In 1979 a West German source noted that officer shortages in the CSLA at that time ranged from 20 percent in the air force to 70 percent in the motorized infantry. Overall military strength dropped from 240,000 in 1966 to 168,000 in 1969 and generally stayed below 200,000 for most of the 1970s. Ironically, General Martin Dzur, the minister of national defense at the time of the invasion, survived the purges and early retirements and retained his post until his death in January 1985.

In the post-Dubcek era, the armed forces suffered from the apathy that seemed to infect the entire society after the Stalin-like crushing of the Prague Spring. The failure to resist the "fraternal" invaders undermined the prestige of the military in its own eyes and in the eyes of the public. Despite the purges of possibly unreliable personnel and the redoubling of propaganda efforts in military schools and training programs, some outside observers in the 1970s and 1980s questioned the reliability of the Czechoslovak forces in the event of an East-West conflict. The most frequent questions concerned their reliability in a prolonged offensive war in Western Europe or in a war that was going badly for Warsaw Pact forces. Other outside analysts, however, believed that the Czechoslovak armed forces were well trained, well equipped, and well motivated and that they were capable of carrying their share of Warsaw Pact operations, particularly in defense of their homeland (see Soviet Influence , this ch.).

Data as of August 1987

Czechoslovakia - TABLE OF CONTENTS

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