Statement on the 20th Anniversary of the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia


August 20, 1988


August 21, 1988, marks the 20th anniversary of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. That invasion put a brutal end to the so-called Prague Spring, during which the people of Czechoslovakia sought to implement political and economic reforms which would have moved their country away from tyranny and closer to its own democratic traditions. The Soviet-led invasion stopped this reform process and has left a 20-year legacy of political repression and economic stagnation.


An entire generation has been born and raised since tanks rolled through the streets of Prague, crushing the hopes of Czechoslovakia to determine its own destiny. Brave men and women within the country, such as the signatories of Charter 77 [a Czechoslovakian human rights initiative], continue to struggle for freedom and long-overdue reforms, which remain the fervent hope of Czechs and Slovaks. We take the occasion of this anniversary to salute these people and to express firm agreement with their conviction that, in the end, truth will prevail.


We also take this occasion to note that the winds of change now sweeping across the Soviet Union and parts of Eastern Europe cannot bring fundamental reconciliation between East and West until historical injustices, such as the 1968 invasion, are forthrightly dealt with and corrected. The so-called Brezhnev doctrine, which was used to justify the invasion, should be openly renounced by Moscow. Soviet troops should be removed. The peoples of Eastern Europe should be free to choose their own system of government. There must be an end to the cruel and artificial division of Europe which continues to split that continent from the Baltic States through Berlin to the Balkans. Only true self-determination of peoples can bring genuine peace and stability to Europe and to the East-West relationship.