Soviets grit teeth, say kind words to Polist leaders in wake of strike
Moscow is currently maintaining a prudent wait-and-see attitude on Poland -- and has pulled back a bit from its rather imprudent linking of Polish labor unrest to West German "revanchism."
This is the analysis of senior Western Kremlinologists at this transition point in Poland's post-strike evolution.
The Kremlin's prudence toward Poland is shown in its approval of the Polish shift of leadership and its publicized extension of some economic help to Poland following the Polish strike settlement.
Thus, Moscow's routine congratulations to Stanislaw Kania, the new Polish United Workers (Communist) Party chief, a few hours after his accession was coupled with a get- well greeting to Kania's hospitalized predecessor, Edward Gierek. The Kremlin's unprecedented kind words for a deposed communist leader -- echoing Kania's unprecedented kind words in a Polish Central Committee speech about the man he displaced -- suggested that Moscow neither engineered Kania's takeover nor expects any policy change from it.
Kania is presumed by Western Diplomats to have good relations with the soviet leadership because of his previous sensitive post as head of the Polish police and Army. But his explicit pledge to uphold the Gdansk labor agreement and his reported advocacy of conciliation rather than suppression during the strike hardly represent the kind of hard line that the Kremlin might hope could stem the tide of liberalization in Poland. Nor does the new promotion to the Polish Politburo of two of the key figures in the party-workers negotiations go in the direction the Russians would prefer.
Yet Moscow presumably sees no alternative possibility at this point within the Polish Communist Party.
The extent and content of Soviet-Polish consultation over the Polish leadership shift is a mystery to Western diplomats. They assume high-level contacts, but there has been no confirmation in leaks from the Poles (or from the USSR). westerners see this as a sign that nothing has gone wrong so far -- that the Poles are holding their own in persuading the Russians that their course of compromise offers the best possiblity of limiting the erosion of party authority in Poland.
Soviet acquiescence in the Polish compromise is also shown in publicity given to a Soviet hard-currency loan to Poland following the party-strikers agreement. The hard-currency loan -- which was apparently made last summer, before the outbreak of Polish strikes -- was conspicuously reported in the Eastern European press the first week in September, and it was twinned with East German and Czech pledges of increased deliveries of raw materials to Poland.
Additionally, the Warsaw pact maneuvers that opened in northern East Germany Sept. 8 are not being used to threaten Poland but are proceeding as planned months ago. They are the largest in 10 years, but their 40,000 participating troops are still well under the size of the usual fall NATO maneuvers.
Alongside these signs of Soviet acquiescence in the Polish evolution, however , there are also signs of Soviet unhappiness. No soviet leader has commented at all of the Polish settlement. The Soviet press still has not reported the factual terms of the settlement. The loyal East German and Czech press continues to warn against "antisocialist elements" in Poland. and the East German press particularly has attacked "revanchist" West Germany for meddling in Poland.
The high point of this accusation was a full- page spread in the East German Socialist Unity (communist) Party organ Neues Deutschland Sept. 4 citing claims to currently Polish and formerly German territory made by various German emigre groups.
No western diplomat is sure what lies behind this striking soviet-bloc revival of the West German bogeyman after a decade of Soviet-West German detente.
Some western diplomats sense a certain desperation in the Soviet turn to a West German scare. They speculate that the Russians saw in this the only even partly plausible foreign explanation for the ideologically impossible rift between the working class and the party in Poland. Besides trying to explain the situation to themselves, the Russians perhaps hope, too, that the constant reminder of the limits of Soviet toleration will help to dampen the Polish leadership's own acquiescence in liberalization.
Finally, the Russians may hope that evoking what was once a real common interest of the Poles and Russians -- blocking postwar West German claims on former German territory -- might after all have some counterappeal to Polish workers.
So far the theme of the West German bogeyman seems to have fallen on deaf ears of Poles -- who these days get on rather better with West Germans than with East Germans.
The theme of German "revanchism" (meaning "revenge seeking," or, more specifically, attempts to move the German border eastward), has the added disadvantage of undermining the 1980 Soviet courtship of West Germany. The Boon government has sharply rejected all accusations of revanchism and has protested to the Soviet Union about them. Most notably, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, the man Moscow has courted most assiduously, objected in a Sept. 7 radio interview to Soviet commentaries that show "powerful aggression" toward the West. He added pointedly that the lact of soviet interference in Polish affairs this fall should not be seen as "restraint" but as the "norm" of international relations.
Following the West German complaints there has been a diminishing of the revanchist charge in the Soviet-bloc press. Now the emphasis is more on generalized foreign "imperialist" meddling in Poland.