Soviets warn East bloc to stay in line
Afghanistan and Sakharov dealt two body blows to detente, two special shocks to Eastern Europe. Afghanistan is far away, even with its intimation that, 12 years after Czechoslavkia, the Soviet Union still will use military force against a supposed "socialist" country if it thinks its own interests are threatened.
Andrei Sakharov's exile strikes nearer home.
It is seen as an alarming signal that the Soviet Union is in a mood in which it will expect the less dogmatic allies to follow suit, i.e., to snuff out any dissent and to discourage the milder kind of sociopolitical climate established in Hungary and, to a lesser degree, in Poland in recent years.
From both these countries there are reports of somber misgivings that the Russians will demand a severe tightening-up of their more tolerant cultural attitudes.
Thus far only Czechoslavakia has wielded an "iron hand" comparable to the Russian'. Its latest demonstration was the heavy sentences handed six activists in the Charter 77 movement last October.
Romania has acted with occasional severity, but both Hungary and Poland have shown considerable latitude and restraint.
In Hungary it is part and parcel of the national conciliation pursued by Communits Party leader Janos Kadar since the traumatic 1956 uprising and of Mr. Kadar's economic reforms, which are bringing better living standards.
In Poland, the Gierek regime frequently has employed harassment and sometimes imprisonment. But the ever-present hazard of church-state confrontation, which it cannot afford politically, sets certain limits.
Hopes in both Hungary and Poland that "liberalization" might go further, since the signing of the 1975 Helsinki Declaration, have been harshly set back first by Afghanistan and still more by the Sakharov case.
The later is interpreted not only as a move to finish off the protest movement in Russia itself but also as a warning to the Hungarian and Polish leaders to stop being "half- hearted" about it.
"Afghanistan," one communist journalist remarked, "was a signal of new Soviet toughness in international relations. Sakharov's exile signals a decision on a much harder line at home.
"It is a matter of great concern that the 'liberal' East European will be expected to do the same."
Even before the Afghan invasion, there were indications that Moscow wanted unequivocal action taken against dissent and deviation anywhere in its sphere of influence.
Support among West European communists for the international outcry against the trial of playwright Vaclay Havel produced harsh outburst from Moscow and Prague, and fresh demands for ideological discipline.
According to recent reports, Hungary was prevailed on to act against some of the many who signed petitions asking Mr. Kadar to "intervene" with the Czech authorities. Party members who signed were apparently expelled. Others forfeited promotion or were demoted.
A few months ago the Charter 77 movement seemed threatened with extinction. The new spokesmen bravely emerged.
But with the Sakharov case as an example, they will be under more pressure now. If Warsaw and Budapest were to fall into line with Moscow, it would be a major setback for all of Eastern Europe.
Some "liberal" communists see Russia's lates moves as pointers to a perhaps decisive test approaching within the bloc and for the communist movement.
"The time has come," one observed, "when either the Polish and Hungarian leaders take a stand and tell the Russians this sort of thing has gone too far -- that it is 'against socialism' as well as basic human rights. . . . --0 or they will surrender their own chances to operate a more flexible, open society.
"This could be their last chance to stand up and tell the Russians frankly that they themselves simply cannot follow such a line. . . ."