Soviet leader lashes out at US during Polish congress. Gorbachev blames Washington for arms race
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev delivered a blistering attack against the United States at the Polish Communist Party Congress here yesterday. US arms control policy was his main target. His remarks seemed to suggest that superpower relations are moving into a deep freeze.
``Washington is destroying the remaining brakes that were still containing the arms race,'' Mr. Gorbachev said, citing the recent decision by the Reagan administration not to be bound by the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II). ``We shall most resolutely repulse the adventuristic, destructive actions of the United States.''
Gorbachev's aggressive anti-American tone highlighted the hard line emerging from the Polish party congress. The Soviet leader's presence in Warsaw is designed to bolster the position of the Polish leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, more than four years after the declaration of martial law crushed the Solidarity trade-union movement. Gorbachev's presence also illustrates how the Jaruzelski government is moving closer to the Soviet Union in its attempt to destroy remaining domestic opposition.
The Soviet leader extended his criticism to include US policy toward Poland. He blamed ``imperialistic circles'' for ``pouring torrents of lies on Poland and hitting it with economic `sanctions.' '' Using the American ban on trade with Warsaw as ammunition, he accused ``those in the West who hypocritically describe themselves as friends of the Polish people'' for trying ``to dismantle socialism.''
``The Soviet people are at your side,'' Gorbachev said, fighting those ``imperialistic circles'' that he said were trying to destablize Poland. The ``alliance between Poland and the USSR'' is indispensable, he concluded.
Jaruzelski agrees. In recent days, his government has delivered accusation after accusation against the US. First, the Polish authorities attempted to show that Washington had betrayed Solidarity. They said that US intelligence knew about plans for imposing martial law in advance, but did not warn Solidarity. Then, just last week, the Poles charged that the US Central Intelligence Agency is training Polish 'emigr'e saboteurs in New Jersey.
Jaruzelski blames US intransigence for the deterioration of relations. Straining under the weight of a close to $40 billion debt, the Warsaw government long has wanted to improve trade ties with the West. Unable to do this, however, the authorities say they have no choice but to forge even closer economic -- and political -- ties with the Soviet Union.
Jaruzelski continues to say he wants a true social consensus. In his speech to the party congress Sunday, the Polish leader held out hope on amnesty of political prisoners. But his offer was vague. No specific releases were announced. And the most important political prisoners seem to be excluded from an eventual grace.
At the same time that Jaruzelski was speaking, police in the eastern Polish city of Poznan were breaking up a demonstration by former Solidarity members in commemoration of the 1956 workers' revolt. Police also harrassed Western television crews. These tactics are part of a general crackdown.
Opposition activists are being squeezed. The most spectacular move was the arrest a few weeks ago of underground solidarity leader Zbigniew Bujak. Opposition leaders say that Mr. Bujak's arrest culminated a steady series of arrests over the past few months.
In this atmosphere, deteriorating superpower relations are bound to add pressure. Without an improvement in relations between Moscow and Washington, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa told the Monitor last year, Poland would not be able to evolve into a freer society.
``We are like a little insect fluttering between two giants,'' he said. ``We must be careful not to be squashed.'' So far Walesa has not made public comment on the Gorbachev speech. But he cannot be happy about the East-West tensions it promises to ignite.