EC warns Soviets on Poland in rare display of unity
The European Community (EC), responding strongly to increasing tensions in its Polish back yard, has achieved what observers see as a new political maturity.
Two days of sober and sensible talks in Luxembourg Dec. 1 and 2 by the prime ministers and foreign ministers of the nine-nation Community ended with what officials here describe as a "robust" warning to the Russians.
And if statements following the secretly convened Warsaw Pact summit in Moscow Dec. 5 can be believed, the warning may have helped the Soviets to renounce what they call "the use or threat of force" in Poland.
The Luxembourg communique told the Russians (although not by name) to adhere to the Helsinki Final act and refrain from intervention in Poland, or risk "very serious consequences for the future of international relations in Europe and throughout the world."
But it also opened the door to meet Poland's own request for economic aid. Poland has asked for an extension of credits and a rescheduling of its huge debt repayment. It has also elicited the Community's willingness to sell some of its embarrassingly large, 300,000-ton "butter mountain" and its 275,000-ton beef stockpile at reduced prices.
The firmness adn timeliness of the Luxembourg communique, coming from a group accustomed to internal bickering over Britain's budget, French lamb, or North Sea fish is significant. It took three weeks for the EC to draw together a common response after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Government spokesmen here are keen to play down any sense that they see Soviet intervention, in spite of Moscow's renunciations, as inevitable. "We are not trying to talk ourselves into an invasion psychosis," said one diplomat. He stressed that the EC was not drawing up contingency plans for various invasion scenarios.
But Britain's Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, did expand on the "consequences" in a television interview. He suggested that some things dear to Soviet hearts --tions talks in Vienna and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe talks in Madrid -- would be dead. Other negotiations --testing, and the development of Pershing and cruise missiles in Western Europe agreed by NATO last December -- would similarly wither.
He also told a parliamentary committee that economic measures would be taken against the Soviets. What form they might take, however, remains a mystery -- since, as one diplomat explained, "Lord Carrington's contempt for sanctions knows no bounds."
Europe has not been alone in its concern. President Carter's announcement of an "unprecedented buildup of Soviet forces along the Polish border" came on Dec. 3 -- close enough to the Luxembourg communique to suggest to some observers a degree of coordination between the United States and Europe, which has been lacking during much of Mr. Carter's presidency.
Mr. Carter's language raised some eyebrows here. It appeared to some as typical American exaggeration, and subsequent comments by both Secretary of State Edmund Muskie and the president's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, have softened the message.
Government spokesmen here, questioned about evidence of an "unprecedented buildup," cite only such preparations as:
* The imposition of travel restrictions on Western military observers in East Germany from Nov. 29 through Dec. 9 -- which cover an unusually large area, span an unusually long time, and occur at an unusual time of year, since normal Soviet troop rotations occur in October and November.
* The withdrawal of the East German ambassador from Warsaw.
* The closing of the East German-Polish border.
* The cancellation of military leave in East Germany.
* The calling up of reservists and the increased state of alertness of Warsaw Pact troops.
But well-placed officials in Washington, contacted by the Monitor, said the troop buildup was confirmed by "every means of intelligence at our disposal" -- which includes satellite surveillance and on-the-ground reports.
But analysts here are quick to distinguish between the capability to invade and the willingness to do so.