(W)Archives: “Current Military Plans Do Not Apply”
This is the latest installment in our (W)ARCHIVES series, which presents something from the past – a declassified report, military document, memo, article, or photo – and considers it in the context of important contemporary issues.
On August 20, 1968 Soviet military forces with nominal support from East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria invaded Czechoslovakia, squelching the “Prague Spring,” an effort by Czechoslovak reformists to put a “human face” on Communism in their country.
World opinion was outraged but there was little that the West could do. The possibility of a Soviet invasion had been on everyone’s mind throughout the year. A month before it took place, National Security Council staffer William Lemnitzer, a U.S. Army officer, wrote to National Security Adviser Walt Rostow about U.S. and NATO military options in the event of an invasion. His finding was that such options “are quite slim on a unilateral basis, and even less when action in coordination with possible allies is postulated.”
NATO’s military options in the Crimean crisis today aren’t much more robust.
Mark Stout is a Senior Editor at War on the Rocks. He is the Director of the MA Program in Global Security Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Arts and Sciences in Washington, D.C.