Poles propose weapons cuts for Central Europe. Initiative seen as bid to restore country's international image in the wake of martial law
The government here has launched a new ``Polish initiative'' for arms control in Central Europe and is waiting hopefully for some encouragement from the NATO powers. ``We are presenting an `open' plan and we hope all the states of Europe - apart from the nine specifically mentioned - will be ready to talk with us about it,'' a senior official said in an interview.
The plan proposes action in four main aspects of East-West disarmament:
Gradual reduction of all operational and battlefield nuclear weapons.
This would involve nine states - East and West Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Denmark - that the Poles see as the decisive area for European security. But the Poles also endorse the concept already advanced by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that all the European states - ``from the Atlantic to the Urals'' - might eventually be included.
Similar reduction of conventional weapons, first with those representing the greatest potential threat for surprise attack.
Development of a mutually binding switch in military doctrine to the ``strictly defensive'' as distinct from ``offensive'' structures implicit in some present structures.
Intensified negotiation in the search for confidence- and security-building measures and strict verification of all agreed arms reductions.
The ``Jaruzelski plan,'' as it immediately was named, is an evident move to reestablish a certain ``international'' image that Poland enjoyed until the martial-law crisis of 1981 reduced it to a position of the most uncertain link in the Soviet alliance from all points of view, including military. Recovery has been, and remains, a painful process. But, with Mr. Gorbachev's quite evident support, the regime has been able to make considerable progress.
The constraints of the Warsaw Pact alliance remain on Poland, of course. But the Poles, and other East Europeans, are finding hints that inter-state relations within that alliance are becoming more flexible and more open to consultation and self-initiative under Gorbachev's leadership. Evidence of this, it would seem, can be seen in the present Polish move on arms control.
The proposal has apparently been a year in the making. It was much discussed with the Soviets and the other East Europeans. Officials predictably stress that it was worked out within the framework, as Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski said when he unveiled the plan here Friday, charted by the Soviet leader for radical nuclear disarmament. In one such Soviet peace offensives, the Warsaw Pact last year called for sweeping nuclear and conventional weapons cuts in the whole European area.
Advance notice of the proposal was given to the Western powers, not only to NATO states but to others adjacent to the enlarged zone covered by the new plan. Marian Orzechowski, the foreign minister, is in Vienna to present it to all 35 states, including the United States, engaged in the current review of progress in European security and cooperation since the 1975 Helsinki Accords.
The East Germans and Czechoslovakia have both advanced their own disarmament ideas. The Poles, however, obviously felt that their position as the biggest and reputedly the best-equipped and trained East European contributor to the Warsaw Pact's conventional strength justifies them in coming out with a broadly specific plan for the region as a whole.
The Jaruzelski plan is a new step in a Polish diplomatic tradition started in 1957 by the ``Rapacki plan'' - named after its author, then Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki - for a nuclear-free Central Europe. The Poles clearly are hopeful that the latest plan will command a better response than its forerunner.
``Today's circumstances are very different,'' the senior official cited says, ``and more dangerous and more pressing.''
The Rapacki plan was turned down by NATO because it did not take into account the Soviet preponderance in conventional arms strength then existing.
The same view will probably be taken of the new Polish plan, though it does - unlike the Rapacki plan - include conventional as well as nuclear arms.
The stumbling block in the 12-year-old troop reduction talks in Vienna is still the Warsaw Pact's reluctance to address the Western view on disparity of conventional forces.
But to suggestions that their plan now also avoids the issue, the Poles repeat the Soviet Union's insistence that balance, not disparity, between East and West forces already ``more or less'' exists.
They point to Western researchers and experts who concur.
``One side,'' the official said, ``may have more tanks.
``The other side, however, can have fewer yet still be as strong - or stronger - because its tanks are more sophisticated, have better technology and greater fire power, are faster, and so on.'' It was candid enough awareness of Western technological superiority.
The Poles seem hopeful that their initiative may help their slowly improving relations with the US.
Although US sanctions have been ended, ``normalization'' is still a step-by-step process. Washington visualizes it that way until the Polish authorities begin, in the American view, to meet more of the necessary prerequisites to Polish internal conciliation: a better political atmosphere and the carrying out of economic reform.
``But the Americans are in Central Europe, and we would like them to show goodwill towards our plan, just as we hope all West European states will discuss it with us,'' the official said.