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The Warsaw Pact was a military alliance of the Eastern European Soviet Bloc countries intended to organize against the perceived threat from the NATO alliance, established in 1949. The treaty was drafted by Khrushchev in 1955 and signed in Warsaw on May 14, 1955; its members were the Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia--all the Communist countries of Eastern Europe except Yugoslavia. The members of the Warsaw Pact were to defend each other if one was attacked. The pact came to an end on March 31, 1991 and was officially dissolved at a meeting in Prague on July 1.
The Warsaw Pact was dominated by the Soviet Union. Efforts to leave the Warsaw Pact by member countries were crushed, for instance in the Hungarian revolution of 1956. Hungary planned to leave the Warsaw Pact and declare themselves neutral in the Cold War conflict between East and West, but in October 1956 the Red Army entered Hungary and crushed the resistance in two weeks.
Warsaw Pact forces were utilised at times, such as during the 1968 Prague Spring, when they invaded Czechoslovakia to put down the democratic reforms that were being implemented by the government there. This brought to light the Soviet policy governing the Warsaw Pact, the Brezhnev Doctrine, that stated "When forces that are hostile to socialism and try to turn the development of some socialist country towards capitalism, it becomes not only a problem of the country concerned, but a common problem and concern of all socialist countries." After the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Albania formally withdrew from the pact, although Albania had stopped supporting the pact as early as 1962.
NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries never engaged each other in armed conflict, but fought a Cold War for more than 35 years. In December 1988 Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union at the time, announced the so called Sinatra Doctrine which stated that the Brezhnev Doctrine would be abandoned and that the Eastern European countries could do what they liked. When it was clear that the Soviet Union would no longer use force to control the Warsaw Pact countries a series of rapid changes started in Eastern Europe in 1989. The new governments in Eastern Europe were much less supportive to the Warsaw Pact, and in January 1991 Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland announced that they would withdraw all support by July 1st that year. Bulgaria followed suit in February, and it was clear that the pact was effectively dead. The Soviet Union acknowledged this, and the pact was officially dissolved at a meeting in Prague on July 1, 1991.