Invasion of Czechoslovakia 1968

Report to the British Cabinet summing up the situation in Czechoslovakia in August 1968. (Catalogue ref: CAB 128/43)


The Foreign Secretary said that we did not know the strength of the Warsaw Pact forces that had invaded Czechoslovakia on the night of 20th-2lst August, but it was clear that their grip on the country was complete although some free radio stations were still operating.  Ground forces of the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland and Bulgaria were involved together with Soviet air forces. There were also indications of an increased level of activity in the Soviet long-range air and rocket forces but these did not appear to be in a high state of alert.

A remarkable feature of the political situation was that no Czech leader had so far shown himself willing to act as a Soviet puppet. Mr Dubcek, the Secretary of the Czech Communist Party, and others were in detention, but President Svoboda had issued a statement on the previous evening calling for the withdrawal of the invading troops and for the liberalisation programme in Czechoslovakia to continue; it might be, however, that the Soviet authorities hoped that he would be prepared to co-operate with them.

The Czech people were behaving with very great restraint and, although there had been some deaths, widespread bloodshed did not seem likely. It was not clear why the Soviet Union had resorted to military action, despite the agreement reached at Bratislava; it might be that they did not consider that censorship was being sufficiently rigidly imposed by the Czech Government as a result of the agreement or that they feared the outcome of the elections for the Presidum of the Communist Party which were clue to take place on 9th September.

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