The mighty Warsaw Pact died with a whimper, not a bang. The ripples were hardly noticed as a world braced for explosions in a different theater. The conservative movement taking hold in Moscow can reverse most of the reforms of Mikhail S. Gorbachev, but not this. Moscow unburdened itself of Eastern Europe, and cannot get it back.
Born in 1955 as Moscow's response to West Germany's joining NATO, the Warsaw Pact created the fact or illusion of a mighty army of five million fully integrated under Soviet command, ready to roll West at a moment's notice. In fact, the alliance crushed no Western country but only two of its own members, Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, when tanks crushed freedom and independence.
The revolutions unleashed by Mr. Gorbachev in Eastern Europe rendered the Warsaw Pact meaningless in 1989, with his apparent approval. The loyalty to Moscow of Czechoslovak, East German, Hungarian, Polish and Romanian -- if not of Bulgarian -- troops had become problematic before then.