The other Warsaw Pact member-states saw the writing on the wall. As the Third World War continued along on a trajectory of perilous escalation as D+24 went on, some Pact governments were making desperate efforts to jettison affiliations to the Soviet Union in the hope it would spare their nations from nuclear fire. Others adopted more fatalistic approaches at this late stage in the game. The die was cast and their ability to influence events was minimal.
Hungary had been fairly stable for most of the war. Just two divisions went northwest to join the Soviet Southern Group of Forces in reinforcing Pact operations in the southern region of the FRG. The bulk of Hungary’s military remained at home poised to defend against a potential attack from the direction of Austria or the north of Italy. By the final week of the war, the tide of war in Europe had turned against the Warsaw Pact. In spite of strict censorship, the Hungarian population picked up on the change in tempo. Anti-communist elements were planning to make a move in the coming days. The government in Budapest beat them to the punch. Hungarian leaders came to terms with the reality of the moment and sensed the winds of change approaching. Discreet concessions were made to opposition parties, official and unofficial, in the hopes of the Communist government maintaining power through what was seen as the imminent transition to a more liberal form of government. One concession was agreed to by the opposition at once: The immediate withdrawal of Hungary from the Warsaw Pact.
Romania was still in the midst of a revolt. Nicolae Ceausescu’s days were numbered. Anti-government demonstrations had turned into violent clashes between opponents of Ceausescu and military and security forces. With each day that passed, however, more government and military units threw their lot in with the people. It was widely regarded as only a matter of time before Ceausescu surrendered or was captured. Soviet support had all but dried up and Romania’s leader was fast running out of options. As for the nation’s place in the Warsaw Pact, it was a moot point by this time. Whatever shape post-war Europe would take, provided a major nuclear war could be avoided, Romania’s geopolitical importance was destined to be minimal.
Bulgaria continued to honor its alliance commitments. Sofia’s armed forces were fighting in and around Thrace along with Soviet units. NATO bombs and cruise missiles were impacting within the territorial boundaries of Bulgaria every day and night. General Secretary Todor Zhivkov was fully aware of the severity of the present situation. Yet his loyalty to Moscow was enduring and the Bulgarian leader was prepared to either reap the rewards of a Soviet victory or follow Romanov and his government down in flames. As was the case in Hungary, Bulgaria’s population was aware of events taking place. They understood that the situation was worsening, and many families started to make preparations in line with civil defense recommendations. If the country survived, there would be time for a reckoning. Until then, there were more important matters for families to contend with.
Poland on D+24 is worthy of a separate entry all its own, so look for that towards the end of the month.