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THE COMMUNIST BALKANS AGAINST NATO IN THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN AREA. 1949 1969Dr. Jordan Baev Even the definition of the title of this Paper creates some preliminary questions that should to be clarified in the very beginning: Is it possible to speak in general of the Communist Balkans as a common concept; How broad should be the scope of the Eastern Mediterranean area; To what extend has to be determined NATO strategy in the region in order to describe more thoroughly the Soviet bloc anti-NATO attitude and policy. Using the term communist states in the Balkans we are focusing on the Warsaw Pact member states, mainly Bulgaria and Romania, since Albania actually plays a secondary role within the alliance even in the 50-s. Regarding the political and military presence of the leading NATO countries in the area, it is not our goal to remind well known events or doctrines, but to throw more light on their repercussion within the Warsaw Pact circles and to contribute for a more detailed picture of the Soviet bloc views on the enemys intentions during the first Cold War decades. The Communist attitude towards the most lasting postwar conflicts such as the Middle East and the Cyprus ones should be discussed as well. Among the topics that have to be clarified are the nature of some internal disputes and differences between the Soviet allies in the Balkans; the place of the Warsaw Pact Southern Flank in the bi-polar confrontation, assigned by Kremlin; the changes of the common plans and views caused by the Soviet leadership castling from Stalin to Brezhnev. During the last decade a large collection of top secret governmental and Communist Party resolutions and information (from September 1944 till November 1989) was declassified in Bulgaria. As a result of the work of our Bulgarian Cold War Research Group in last two years we have obtained access to some formerly secret Diplomatic, Security and Military Records for the period up to 1992. All this newly available documentation is a solid base and gives us an exclusive opportunity to explore various new issues of the Warsaw Pact history and the place of the Balkans in the Cold War era. The announcement of the North Atlantic Treaty is not followed by any special Soviet bloc action. The only public response is an evident intensification of the peace propaganda against the imperialist warmongers. After the building of the East European bilateral treaties system in 1947-1949 an increase of the multilateral political, economic and military relations is observed as well. In 1949 1951 starts a
speed up rearmament and a Soviet type structural reorganization of the Bulgarian, Romanian and Hungarian Armed Forces. The Soviet arms supplies for the three former Nazi allies soon go beyond the Paris Peace Treatys limitations 1 , although the number of forces and the quality of the armaments are too much overestimated in some reports of the British and French military representatives in Sofia and Bucharest 2 and in official statements of the Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz Tito and the Greek Prime Minister Sofokles Venizelos early in 1951 3 . Two specific issues should be mentioned in regard to the Balkan Soviet allies position in late 40-s and early 50-s: First, Bulgaria is the only former East European Nazi ally, where there arent any Soviet troops after 1947. Even at the heat of the Cold War the number of the Soviet military advisers in Bulgaria is approximately small [37 servicemen in 1947, 108 in 1953, 61 in 1955] 4 . At the same time, however, the most key senior commanders positions inside the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defense are occupied by Bulgarian officers, who have finished Soviet military schools and academies during the interwar years. For a decade after the establishment of a Communist dominance in the country (1945 1954) 157 Bulgarian officers receive their education in Soviet military academies 5 . It sounds as an symbolic anecdote the real story of a Bulgarian communist leaderships request to Stalin in September 1949 to send a Soviet general as a Chief of Staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces. The request is rejected by Stalin with the surprising argument: We consider that it is necessary to express our view on the inexpedience of such idea, since the Chief of General Staff has to know well Bulgarian circumstances and language and to be close associated with the Bulgarian Army. 6 The Soviet control over Romania, however, is more direct 7 and one of the strategic reasons for it is to secure a permanent Soviet line of communications with Bulgaria and Albania via the Romanian territory. Second, at the initial stage of the building of the Communist system (1948 1956), the main Soviet bloc initiatives and undertakings in the Balkans are declared through Bucharest, not by Sofia as it is done at the time of Georgi Dimitrov. Lets mention, for instance, the secret Fund Moscow initiative, the Cominform Bureau and other communist meetings in Romania, the non-nuclear Balkans proposal of the Romanian Prime Minister Kivu Stojka, etc. The Romanian Foreign Policy activity as a Soviet bloc speaker for the Balkans can be observed until late 50-s, when a new flexible Bulgarian Party leader Todor Zhivkov quickly gains full confidence of Khrushchev and further of Brezhnev.
At the peak of the Cold War confrontation in late 40-s early 50-s the Balkans occupy a relevantly significant place in the Soviet policy. It is motivated mainly by the continuing Stalin Tito split, NATOs expansion in South-East Europe by inclusion of Turkey and Greece to the Alliance, and finally the announcement of a formal Balkan Pact between Greece, Turkey and Yugoslavia in February 1953. Although the Kremlin leadership pays primary attention to Central and West Europe in the 60-s, the geo-strategic position of the Balkans as a key factor for securing control of the approaches to the Mediterranean and the Near East still remain actual. The role, assigned to Bulgaria in Soviet plans and intentions, is well described in two Annual Reports of British Legation in Sofia in the early 60-s. In 1960 Anthony Lambert reports to Foreign Office: The Russians, we must assume, regard Bulgaria as the most reliable of their European satellites. She has a stable government, a good army, and a docile population. She also occupies a key sector in the front line facing NATO. For it seems clear that the Russians are building up the pressure against Greece and Turkey; and here Bulgaria has an important role to play. And a William Harpams Report of 1964 adds some remarks on Bulgarias considerable strategic importance to the Soviet Union, both as a buffer against attack from the South and as a springboard for any offensive to the Mediterranean. 8 The imposing of the Soviet political model and the Soviet type of Armed and Security Forces with a very strong subordination to Moscow brings to a more or less clear conclusion that the creation of the Warsaw Pact in May 1955 actually marks not the beginning, but the end of a process of Soviet bloc political, economic and military integration. The appropriate mechanisms of effective coordination within the Pact are not established with the signing of the Warsaw Treaty; they have to be developed for more a decade until Warsaw Pact Budapest Summit in March 1969 9 . The Communist regimes in Bucharest, Sofia and Tirana carefully observe the reorganization of Turkish and Greek armies at the eve and after the NATO expansion on the Balkans. The inclusion of Greece and Turkey to NATO, however, produces only formal diplomatic notes from Moscow and Sofia with no practical significance. It is rather a slight reaction in comparison with the energetic Soviet protests against Norways inclusion to NATO in April 1949. Similar to such reaction is the Soviet bloc response towards the announcement of the Balkan Pact in 1953. In April 1953 a verbal Note against this act is prepared at the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but it had never been delivered to Ankara and Belgrade. 10 In a Summary Information of January 1953 over the NATO activity in the Balkans it is pointed out that according to a new NATO strategy, in case of a probable Soviet attack in Western
Europe, the Turkish, Greek and Yugoslav forces are ready immediately to organize a counteroffensive in the Balkans 11 Some Diplomatic Reports from the Bulgarian Legation in Ankara and General Consulate in Istanbul stress on Information regarding the deployment of US troops and tactical aviation, and the plans for built up of US military bases in Turkey. 12 Until mid-50-s Soviet bloc countries do not pay special attention to the Near East situation. Bulgaria, as other East European states, supports in 1948 the creation of a new state of Israel in Palestine, whose people fight against British imperialism and reactionary Islamic empires. 13 It is not accidental, that in 1951 Abdullah, the King of Transjordan, addresses a warning message against the Russian-Jewish threat to the Arabic world 14 . A tension in Israeli-Bulgarian relations appears only in the summer of 1955, when a Bulgarian AF pilot shoots down an Israeli civil airplane. The followed investigation proves, however, that it is not a premeditated action but a pilot fault, caused mainly by the bi-polar propaganda atmosphere of a war of nerves 15 . A definitive change comes after the Suez crisis in 1956, when for the first time the East European countries stand by the nationalistic Nassers regime in Egypt. The establishment of the Warsaw Treaty Organization in May 1955 does not cause any significant changes in the position of dependence of the smaller East-European Kremlin allies set up during Stalins rule. At the very moment of its creation the organization assigns specific observation and analysis tasks to each of its member states in regard of the fighting capacity and military power of their neighboring states - members of the ho