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Soviet, Warsaw Pact Call 1968 Invasion of Czechoslovakia a Mistake With AM-Czechoslovakia, Bjt

December 5, 1989

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Soviet Union and four other Warsaw Pact nations that invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 to crush a reform movement condemned their action on Monday.

For the first time, the leaders of the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany and Poland said jointly that sending in troops constitituted ″interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign Czechoslovakia and must be condemned,″ according to a statement read on TV and carried by the official news agency Tass.

In a separate statement, the Kremlin called the Soviet-led invasion ″unfounded″ and ″erroneous.″ It noted that Prague condemned it earlier.

The invasion used tanks to crush the ″Prague Spring″ reforms of Alexander Dubcek, who was ousted as Communist Party leader. In the past two weeks, Dubcek has re-emerged in the pro-democracy movement sweeping Czechoslovakia.

Tass said the Soviet and Czechoslovak governments will begin talks on possible reduction of Soviet troops still based in Czechoslovakia.

The statements came at the end of a Warsaw Pact summit meeting in Moscow, where Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev indicated the Warsaw Pact and its Western foe, NATO, will someday become political instead of military alliances.

Monday’s announcements came a day after Gorbachev met President Bush at Malta.

For months, following momentous political change in East Europe, all the signers of Monday’s announcement except the Soviets condemned the invasion of their ally. Romania, still run by hard-liner Nicolae Ceausescu, was not included in Monday’s statement, but Romania did not take part in the invasion.

The statement said, ″Interrupting the process of democratic renewal in Czechoslovakia, these unjustified actions had long-term negative consequences. History proved that it is extremely important, even in the most complex international situations, to use political means for the settling of any problem, to strongly observe principles of sovereignty, independence and non- interference in internal affairs in relations between states, in line with the principles of the Warsaw Pact.″

The Soviet announcement likened the situation in 1968 to the current political upheaval in Czechoslovakia, where demonstrations and a general strike have forced leadership changes. The Soviet statement called this a natural process of self-reassessment.

It said the Soviet leadership supported one side in the internal dispute of 1968 and ″the justification for such an unbalanced, inadequate approach, an interference in the affairs of a friendly country, was then viewed in an acute East-West confrontation.″

″We share the view of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and the Czechoslovak government that the entrance of the armies of five socialist countries into Czechoslovak territory in 1968 was unfounded, and that that decision, in the light of all the presently known facts, was erroneous,″ the Soviet government announcement said.

The invasion stamped out reforms and restored a Moscow-aligned government of hard-liners. The late Leonid I. Brezhnev, then the Soviet leader, cited the Warsaw Pact’s ″sacred duty″ to protect socialism wherever it was threatened.

Albania quit the alliance to protest the invasion and has remained isolated.

Gorbachev also met separately with Czechoslovak Premier Ladislav Adamec and Communist Party leader Karel Urbanek, Tass said, and ″the question of the terms on which Soviet troops stay in Czechoslovakia came up for discussion.″ The question was referred to the two nations’ foreign ministries.

Tass’ report implied Soviet readiness to remove some troops, saying, ″reduction of armed forces and armaments on condition of maintaining European balance ... is the indispensable guarantee of stability in Europe.″

The Tass report on Gorbachev’s speech to the Warsaw Pact leaders indicated he said the Warsaw Treaty Organization and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ″can contribute to the strengthening of European security as political alliances.″ The official summary pointedly avoided any reference to their status now as military alliances.

In a time of momentous political change in Eastern Europe, four of the seven Warsaw Pact nations have replaced staunch Communists with more reform- minded leaders this year, including non-communist Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki. On Monday, more than 150,000 people rallied in Prague Monday to demand the resignation of Czechoslovakia’s government.

Further meetings at the Kremlin Monday and Tuesday indicate more developments may be in the offing.

Gorbachev met Monday with Ceausescu, Romania’s Stalinist leader and the only East European leader to resist the wave of reform sweeping the Communist bloc. Tass said they had a frank exchange regarding socialist construction.

Gorbachev also met with East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow on Monday and was expected to meet Tuesday with West German Foreign Minister Hans- Dietrich Genscher to discuss Soviet resistance to calls for possible reunification of the two Germanys.

Tass said Gorbachev told Modrow the Soviets see East Germany as an important guarantor of peace and stability in Eastern Europe.

East Germany’s longtime leader, Erich Honecker, was ousted Oct. 18 after thousands of citizens fled West and others staged mass protests for reforms. Egon Krenz replaced Honecker but was forced on Sunday to resign as Communist Party leader, though he remains president.

Petar Mladenov replaced ousted Bulgarian party chief Todor Zhivkov on Nov. 10, and Karel Urbanek replaced Czechoslovak leader Milos Jakes on Nov. 24 after pro-democracy demonstrations.

Tass said Genscher met with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze Monday.

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