Poland and the Soviet Union

Copyright 1988, 1998 by Leigh Kimmel

For permission to quote or reprint, contact Leigh Kimmel

The Soviet Union uses many techniques to keep its often less-than- willing East European allies in line. One of the most persuasive techniques which the Soviet Union has at its disposal is that of military force. However, it is frequently not politically expedient for the Soviet Union to apply this directly on a dissenting ally. Thus the Soviet Union will frequently turn to the threat of force to provoke the government of the allied nation to take drastic action against the dissenting elements within the country. This can be seen particularly in the case of Poland, which has been one of the most contentious of the nations of the Soviet Bloc. Several times in the last fourty years the Polish people have attempted to gain some control over their own national destiny, something which is not in harmony with the interests of the Soviet Union. Thus the Soviet Union has been forced to take some measures to limit these activities within Poland and to assure that the Polish government continues to hold to policies which conform to the Moscow line. For the most part, the Soviets have not really been in a position to simply roll into Poland with tanks, and thus have been forced to rely on more indirect means. Among these indirect means has been the use of Poland's obligations as a member nation of the Warsaw Treaty Organization as a tool for manipulation of Polish domestic policy.

The history of the relations between the Soviet Union and Poland go back to the end of World War Two, when the Red Army liberated Poland from the Nazis. The Soviet government was particularly determined to assure that there would be no unfriendly nations along the borders of the Soviet Union, and thus had decided that Poland and the other East European nations would have to become Communist states under the direct control of Moscow. In order to bring this about, the Soviet Union used various underhanded means to get local communist parties elected into the governments of the nations. This was done by manipulating the "free and unfettered elections" to which the Soviets had agreed at the Yalta Conference. These elections were often held amidst a heavy atmosphere of terror which involved driving opposition candidates out of the race and depriving citizens of the vote by accusing them of collaboration with the Nazis, often on the flimsiest of evidence. Frequently these machinations had the full support of Red Army troops which were still in the nations after the defeat of Nazi Germany.

In Poland, once the Communists were in control, the Soviet Union then began putting pressure on the Polish Communist Party to conform to the Moscow party line, as dictated by Stalin. This was done for the most part through systematic terror which bears the distinctive bloody hallmark of Stalinism. The Polish Communist Party was purged of members who had stayed in Poland during the Nazi occupation and fought in the largely independant resistance movement. Since these people were not under Stalin's direct control, Stalin consideredt hem a threat which would have to be eliminated. As the Polish political apparatus was brought under Stalin's control, the Polish Army was also brought to heel. This was accomplished by replacing all officers whose loyalty could not be relied upon by officers whose loyalties belonged unquestionably to Stalin. Thus Stalin placed in high positions of command many officers of Polish ethnic extraction who had served in the Red Army as Soviet citizens. In order to serve as officers in the Polish Army, these officers then took back their Polish citizenship.1 One of the most prominent of these officers was Marshal Konstanty Rokossovsky (Polish spelling -- Rokossowski), who was appointed Minister of Defense and a member of the party's Political Bureau. Although he was by origin a Pole, he had lived for many years in the USSR, and had had a distingushed career as a commander in the Red Army.2 In 1949, the Polish government asked for him to "return" to Poland. The Soviet government immediately "released" him from the Red Army so that he could assume the positions offered to him by the Polish government. However he was also acting on behalf of the Soviet government, who had placed him there as a sort of "Soviet Proconsul in Poland," charged with the destruction of all remaining opposition to Soviet rule which might be found among the officers of the Polish Army.3 Apparently Rokossowski carried out this mission with considerable vigor, for in July and August of 1951, a number of high-ranking Polish officers were given show trials and sentenced to life imprisonment for alleged espionage for the West. Many of these officers had served in the West during World War Two, and thus were likely sources of dissent.4 This falls in with a general pattern throughout Eastern Europe of purging "native" communists and replacing them with ones trained in Moscow, who were indoctrinated in loyalty to Stalin and were for the most part his creatures. In addition to this, Stalin also sent many Soviet "advisors" into East European armies, including the Polish Army. These military advisors constituted a separate chain of command running parallel to that of the national army, and responsable ultimately to Stalin.5 These measures enabled Stalin to hold the nations of Eastern Europe in a stranglehold comparable to that which he held over the Soviet Union itself.

However once Stalin died in 1953, his powerful personal influence was removed. Thus the Soviet government had to find something to replace Stalin's direct control. One of these solutions was the creation of the Warsaw Treaty Organization, which, in addition to its military function as an opposition to NATO, would also serve the purpose of substituting for Stalin's control of Eastern Europe.6 The Warsaw Treaty Organization provided the Soviets with a way of containing the growing movements toward nationalization in the East European armies which began after the death of Stalin.7 Through the Warsaw Treaty Organization, the Soviet military has become the final guarantor of the stability and even the very existance of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe.8 However the Soviet Union can also use the Warsaw Treaty Organization to limit the freedom of action held by those very same regimes. If they desire any degree of internal autonomy, the East European nations must fulfil their military obligations under the Warsaw Treaty Organization.9 For instance, when Gomulka sent troops to Czechoslovakia in 1968, it was apparently in order to show Moscow that Poland was still the Soviet Union's faithful ally.10 Furthermore, the Soviets seek as much as possible to weave the command structures of the East European national military forces into the WTO's control system in order to reduce their potential for autonomous action.11 Through the agencies and joint activities of the Warsaw Treaty Organization, the Soviet Defense Ministry is systematically linked to its counterparts in the various East European nations.12 These linkages provide many opportunities for the Soviet military command to exert considerable pressure on the leadership of the militaries of the various nations. Also, the education of the officers of the various national militaries is largely supervized by the Soviet Union. For example, almost all Polish flag officers have attended Soviet service academies and speak Russian.13 By being trained in Soviet service academies, Polish officers are heavily exposed to the might of the Soviet military, and are thus more likely to regard any hope of resisting it in order to seek a seperate path for Poland as being utterly futile. Through these various means the Soviet Union has established a powerful link to the military forces of their various East European allies, which the Soviets are able to use to their advantage in order to manipulate the activities of these military forces.

Additionally, the Soviet Union can use this system of ties and obligations as a tool to pressure the civil authorities to take certain actions. In Poland, there has been a number of times in which there have been massive civil disturbances, usually primarily over economic problems. During these crises, the actions taken by the Soviet Union have been a major factor in their outcome.

The first major crisis occurred in 1956, not long after the death of Stalin. In the general atmosphere of relaxation following Khrushchev's denunciation of the Stalinist "cult of personality," people finally began to dare to hope that change might actually be possible. The time of Khrushchev's de-Stalinization program was also a time of cultural renewal known as the Thaw. During this time there was a new examination of many of the excesses of Stalin. In Poland, where Stalinism was a system which had been imposed from outside, the reaction was all the more intense. In many ways the Polish people felt as if they had been betrayed by the Stalinist agents which had been forcibly put in place, and were determined to change it.

The first real stirrings of change came with the sudden death of Boleslaw Bierut, the chief Polish Stalinist, in March of '56, while on a visit to Moscow. Although Bierut's death was officially described as being caused by a heart attack, many Poles believed that something deeper and more significant was involved. Thus many began to believe that Bierut's death would mark the beginning of real and substantial change in the Polish government. However Bierut was then succeeded by Edward Ochab, who was also a staunch Stalinist.14

The actual disturbances of the '56 crisis began in Posnan on June 28, which would become known as "Black Thursday." The disturbances started in Hipolit Cegielski's Enterprises, which at that time was known as ZISPO (Stalin Enterprises, Posnan.) ZISPO was Poland's largest factory, in which 15,000 workers were employed in the construction of railway equipment.15 The problem at the root of the disturbances was a dispute over a method of tax assessment which robbed the workers of their refunds.16 The workers had sent a delegation to Warsaw, requesting that the government change this practice, but although the government promised change, no action was forthcoming. Thus the workers finally decided that only drastic action would make the government take notice of their demands.

The strike of June 28 began in the W3 shop, where 2000 workers were employed in building freight cars.17 The work stoppage quickly spread to other shops, until the entire ZISPO complex was shut down. Soon workers at other factories in Posnan began to go on strike in support of the ZISPO workers. Finally many of the ZISPO workers decided to take their greviances directly to the Posnan city council, and formed a huge column marching on the city building. Alarmed at this, the police began firing on the workers. By the time the incident was over, fifty people were dead, including two UB (secret police) officials.18

Immediately after this horrible incident, both Soviet and Polish media harshly attacked it in predictable Stalinist terms. On June 30, two days after Black Thursday, a Soviet resolution denounced the Posnan riots as an American imperialist plot to destroy Communism.19 But shortly thereafter, a rift developed between Soviet and Polish attitudes on the matter. While the Soviets remained adamant that these disturbances and the other, smaller ones which followed were an immediate and serious threat to security, the Polish government began to take a much more relaxed stand on the matter. By July 18, Ochab openly admitted that the riots were no plot, and that the rioting workers had been at least partly justified in their actions.20

About this time, the Polish Central Committee was holding a crucial meeting. During this meeting, Nikolai Aleksandrovich Bulganin, the Soviet Prime Minister, and Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukhov, the Soviet Defense Minister, visited Poland to state the Soviet position on the disturbances.21 In his speech to the Central Committee, Bulganin exhorted them to be watchful against enemies from without and from within. The heavily Stalinist content of his speech struck many of the Polish Communists as being slightly ridiculous and outdated. However the mere fact of his presence in Warsaw was a powerful reminder that the possibility of Soviet military intervention could not be ruled out.22

By October of '56, the Soviets had assembled much of their military force and were prepared to confront these disturbances head on. There were many Soviet forces stationed within the borders of Poland, and even more massed around the Polish borders.23 On October 17, Soviet troops stationed in Western Russia began moving westward into Poland, while others stationed within Poland, particularly in Legnica and other bases near the German border, began to move eastward.24 On October 18, Rokossowski ordered the Polish army to co-ordinate movements with these Soviet forces and others which were now leaving their bases in southern Poland and in the GDR (East Germany.)25 By the next day, (October 19) Soviet armored brigades moving towards Warsaw were already near Sochaczew. In this tense situation, news and rumor about these movements spread like wildfire, as each side tried to use information on the movements to its own best advantage.26

At this time Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev suddenly descended upon Warsaw by airplane, making an uninvited appearance to the Polish Politburo meetings in progress.27 With him Khrushchev brought a delegation including V. N. Molotov, A. I. Mikoyan, L. M. Kaganovich and several high-ranking Soviet military leaders. All of them had come in order to show their "concern" about the situation in Poland.28 During his meetings with the Polish leaders, Khrushchev behaved in a typically crude and boorish manner, shouting at the Poles and pretending not to recognize Wladyslaw Gomulka, the Polish national Communist who had been ousted in the purges of 1948 and who was now the people's favorite as a replacement for Ochab.29 But all of Khrushchev's rather crude display of power did him no good, and he was finally forced to seek a compromise with the Poles. Somewhere in the early morning hours of October 20, the Soviets and the Poles finally managed to work out an agreement by which Gomulka would be permitted to take power in return for a cessitation of all demands for the removal of Soviet troops in Poland.30

Once this agreement was reached, all that remained was bringing the crisis to an end and restoring order once again. The first concern in the minds of the Polish leaders was the matter of those Soviet troops moving on Warsaw. When challenged on the matter, Rokossowski answered that the Soviet troops were merely involved in fall exercizes.31 From then on, Rokossowski's participation in the Polish leadership became a symbol of Soviet influence in Poland. When the new Polish Politburo was formed with Gomulka at its head, Rokossowski was not re-elected to a position on it. Soon afterward he was dismissed from his other posts in the Polish government, and he finally returned to the USSR.32 On October 24, Khrushchev assured Gomulka that the Soviet troops which had been moving towards Warsaw would return to the places where they were stationed within two days.33 Thus the crisis finally came to an end in a manner acceptable to the Soviet government, as the Soviet military presence in Poland was preserved.

The second major crisis occurred in December of 1970, when Polish workers, particularly in Gdansk, but also in other parts of Poland, began striking in response to price increases which the Polish government had ordered for the stabliization of the economy. On the very first day of the disturbances, Polish Foriegn Minister Jedrychowski, a Polish Politburo member, flew to Moscow, where he apparently talked with Soviet leaders about the way in which the crisis would be dealt with. He returned to Warsaw that same day, but the next day Jaroszewicz went to Moscow to take his place.34 Thus there was a high-level Polish government official in Moscow throughout the crisis, serving as a channel for communications between the Soviet and Polish governments. Early in this crisis, Gomulka requested that Brezhnev give him Soviet divisions, saying that the mere fact that such divisions were at his disposal would stabilize the situation.35 Brezhnev refused to give Gomulka any Soviet military aid, and instead informed Gomulka that he would have to deal with the matter through political channels.36 A few days later, Gomulka was forced to resign, and was succeeded by Gierek. Had Brezhnev agreed to send Soviet troops, Gomulka probably would have been kept in power for at least a time. Why then did Brezhnev decide not to back Gomulka? There are two likely explanations. First, the Soviets may have been afraid that any direct intervention in Poland might damage relations with the West, particularly so soon after the 1968 intervention in Czechoslovakia. Second, there is evidence that Brezhnev was strongly displeased with Gomulka's performance, and may have decided that it was time to replace Gomulka with another, more satisfactory leader.37 After restoring order in Poland, Gierek visited with Brezhnev Soon after that, the Soviet Party leadership gave their open approval to the change in leadership in Poland.38

The third major crisis in Poland occurred with the rise of the independant labor union Solidarity in 1980. The leaders of Solidarity were demanding deep and significant reforms in the Polish economic system. In themselves, these reforms might not have seemed particularly dangerous, as they were concerned primarily with getting the failing Polish economy back into working order. But in the minds of the Soviet leaders, who still bore much of the Stalinist obsession with having total control over all aspects of life, Solidarity was a clear and immediate threat to them. The mere fact that Solidarity was an independant organization created by the workers themselves, rather than being an organ of the Polish government, made it particularly dangerous. If the Polish government were to accept Solidarity's demands, thus recognizing the independant trade union as a legitimate organization, this could easily be seen by the peoples of the other East European nations, or even of the Soviet Union itself, as a signal that they would be allowed to create independant organizations of their own. Because of this fear of losing control, the prospect of a stable but reformed Poland would pose certain risks for the Soviet Union, particularly in the area of maintaining political and ideological unity within the Warsaw Treaty Organization.39 Thus the Soviet government decided that strong action was warranted in order to crush the Solidarity movement and restore Soviet-style governmental control.

Throughout the entire time from the first strikes in Gdansk's Lenin Shipyards in August of 1980 to Jaruzelski's declaration of martial law in December of 1981, the Soviet Union used the linkages between itself and Poland established through the system of the WTO to communicate Soviet disapproval of Solidarity. Several times during the period of Solidarity, the Soviet Union carried out military exercizes, either alone or jointly with WTO forces. These military exercizes would serve the political function of displaying to the Poles the power at the disposal of the Soviet Union. Also, the Soviet Union sent a number of high-ranking Soviet officials to visit the Polish government. Most notable of these is Soviet Marshal Viktor Kulikov, Commander in Chief of WTO forces, who made frequent visits to Poland during this time.40 These visits served a number of functions. First, in meetings with Polish government officials, Kulikov could present to them the Soviet opinion of events. Secondly, Kulikov's presence would serve to remind the Polish government that the Soviet Union could resort to using military force to restore order if Poland could not accomplish that by itself in a manner acceptable to the Soviet government. Finally, his meetings with Polish military officials set the groundwork for military action against Solidarity.

As early as August of 1980, before the actual formation of Solidarity as an organization, the Soviets began secretly began upgrading their forces in and around Poland, preparing for the worst.41 At about this time the Soviets decided to carry out maneuvers of the WTO forces in the Baltic Sea. Approximately 40,000 troops were involved in these maneuvers, which began on August 15. There were Czech soldiers in Dresden, which is only 60 miles west of Poland.42 Although these military exercizes may well have had legitimate military purposes, they almost certainly had the secondary purpose of reminding the Polish government and the strikers alike of the sort of forces which the Soviet Union could bring to bear against Poland if dissatisfied with the progress of events.

Later, in late November and early December of 1980, certain areas in the eastern GDR were closed to Western visitors. At that time, Soviet troops in Belorussia and in the Ukraine were placed on alert status.43 By December, the United States government had a large body of intelligence pointing to Soviet preperations to invade Poland under the cover of carrying out a "peaceful exercize."44

On December 5, a summit of the leaders of the WTO was held.45 Several delegates from the Polish government attended. It is almost certain that a large portion of the discussion at this summit concerned the crisis in Poland, and preparations for possible joint WTO action to suppress the Solidarity movement. The final statement of the summit bears this out, stating that Poland would remain a socialist nation and a member of the WTO, and promised the "fraternal aid" of the other WTO members in preserving its socialist system.46 In Soviet parlance, a promise of "fraternal aid" is usually best interpreted as a veiled threat of military intervention.

By December 8, President Carter, becoming concerned about the course of events in Poland, sent a message of concern to Brezhnev on the hot-line between Washington and Moscow. Apparently Brezhnev made no response, for President Carter recorded in his diary on that day his puzzlement at this, commenting that Brezhnev had never before ignored such a message.47 Then, on December 18, an article in Pravda appeared under the name of "Aleksey Petrov," which is a very authoritative byline used for important matters. This article accused NATO of preparing for military intervention in Poland. This was probably intended to have been used as an alibi for Soviet intervention if worse came to worse and the regime in Warsaw were to collapse entirely.48

Just as Moscow was beginning to put some real pressure on the Polish government to crack down severely on Solidarity, it also announced joint maneuvers of the military forces of the USSR, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Poland, which would be code-named "Soyuz 81".49 These maneuvers began in early July, and took place over a large area. On Polish soil there were joint Soviet-Polish exercizes in Silesia which also extended into Pomerania, while there were also war games across the border in East Germany. Also Hungarian troops began to prepare for possible WTO action, while Soviet troops in the Ukraine were preparing for a possible full mobilization.50 The beginning of these maneuvers coincided with new confrontations between the government and the unions. In the city of Bydgoszcz, riot police forcibly broke up a peaceful union demonstration.51 Shortly after this incident, the Soviet media began decrying Solidarity as an organization that imperiled the internal security of the Polish state.52 The Bydogoszcz incident may have been part of the reason behind a Soviet decision to deliberately prolong the "Soyuz 81" maneuvers, apparently as a means of exerting pressure on the Polish government and the populace at large.53 In fact, it appears that they were still hoping that the maneuvers might spur Kania to declare martial law and take drastic measures against Solidarity.54 Soviet forces remained massed around Poland after the conclusion of "Soyuz 81," ready to move in if there were any further problems.55

On June 29, Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet foriegn minister, was announced to be planning a "short friendly visit" to Poland in July.56 Much like the visit of N. A. Bulganin to Warsaw in June of '56, Gromyko's visit would serve as a reminder to the Poles that the Soviet Union would have the final word in this matter, and that it could resort to military force if necessary in order to carry out its wishes.

In July Pravda published several articles alleging that the West was providing weapons for counterrevolutionaries in Poland. These allegations were very similar to those made about Czechoslovakia in 1968, just prior to the Soviet military intervention.57 Like the "Aleksey Petrov" article, these were probably intended to be used in building up a pretext for Soviet military intervention if the Soviet government were to decide that such action was necessary.

During July, the Polish United Workers' Party held its congress, at which elections for the new Secretariat and Politburo were held. Kania was re-elected as First Secretary, but only with difficulty.58 On July 21, Pravda did not list the names of the new Politburo and Secretariat members, as is usually done after such an election. Instead they devoted more than five columns to a speech by General Jaruzelski, who spoke of his willingness to declare a state of emergency.59 By passing over the names of the new Polish Politburo and Secretariat members in favor of Jaruzelski's speech, Pravda reflected the Soviet leaders' displeasure with Kania's soft line on Solidarity, and approval of the hard line favored by Jaruzelski.

Then, on August 8, Soviet Marshal Kulikov, visited Warsaw yet again to talk with General Jaruzelski. At that time he may have told Jaruzelski that major land-sea maneuvers were to be held under Ustinov in the western portions of the USSR in early September, or during the first stages of the Solidarity congress. 60 In fact, these exercizes, code-named Zapad- 81, began on September 4, 1981. Zapad-81 included army and navy exercizes in Byelorussia, the Soviet Baltic republics, and along the Baltic coast, and lasted approximately eight days. NATO and US sources record it as being the largest military exercize carried out by the Soviet Union.61 During the course of Zapad-81, the Soviets carried out amphibious landings on Soviet territory just beyond the Polish border.62 Such practice landings were a way of reminding the Poles that the Soviet Union could resort to military force if the Soviet government were to deem it necessary. The amphibious landing exercizes are in themselves of particular significances because Gdansk, the birthplace of Solidarity and home of many of its leaders, is on the Baltic coast. Thus these amphibious maneuvers held a definite element of threat to Solidarity, reminding its leaders that the Soviet military could overrun Gdansk by force if necessary to destroy Solidarity. Also the Soviets used Zapad-81 to remind the Polish government of the power at the disposal of the Soviet military, as General Jaruzelski was invited to attend the maneuvers as a military observer.63 While he was there, he would also probably have met with a large number of high-ranking Soviet military and political leaders, who would have had ample opportunity to transmit to Jaruzelski the Soviet government's continued disapproval of events in Poland. At about this same time, Polish security forces were alerted to stand ready for a national state of emergency.64 It is possible that Jaruzelski issued this order as a response to Zapad-81, perhaps to show the Soviets that he was indeed taking action against Solidarity.

In October, Pravda published a number of articles portraying the leaders of Solidarity as being eager to remove Poland from the Soviet alliance system and destroy its internal social and political structure.65 These articles were yet another addition to the continuing pattern of accusations which Pravda had been issuing, and almost certainly were yet another piece of foundation work for the justification of harsh military action against Solidarity, even to the extent of direct Soviet military intervention. Not long afterward, on October 18, Jaruzelski finally succeeded Kania as the head of the Polish Communist Party.66 Now almost all the political power of Poland was centered in Jaruzelski's hands, enabling him to take drastic action against Solidarity. Then, on October 28, the WTO Military Council met in Budapest to discuss the activities and problems of its member states "in connection with the current tense international situation."67 The Military Council was probably finalizing the plans for the WTO's role in the actions against Solidarity, particularly in case the Polish army proved unsuccessful in suppressing the organization by itself, and intervention from outside should be required. If such drastic measures were to be required, it would be essential that the entire operation run smoothly, with the WTO forces reinforcing the measures of Jaruzelski's Polish forces, rather than running counter to them and creating further chaos. Thus plans for such a joint operation may have been formulated at this time.

Later, on November 24 and 25, Marshal Kulikov visited Warsaw yet again for consultations with Polish military leaders. With him came Soviet General Anatoli Gribkov, chief of staff of the WTO forces.68 These consultations almost certainly involved planning for the roles of Soviet and Polish forces in the imposition of martial law and the suppression of Solidarity. At about this same time, task forces were deployed first in the countryside, and then in urban centers.69 The deployment of these task forces appears to have been a sort of trial run for martial law, a way of testing Solidarity in order to discover how its members would react to the application of force against them.

Then, while martial law was being declared, (December 13, 1981) Marshal Kulikov was in Poland yet agian.70 According to US State Department reports, Kulikov spent almost the entire visit in a special command bunker, surrounded by 100 or more Soviet officers, and there received hourly reports on the situation as it developed.71 Kulikov was probably involved in commanding Soviet troops which were heavily involved in the imposition of martial law. From the time of the Soyuz 81 maneuvers, the Soviet forces in Poland had been building up supplies and creating their own independant and secure communications network for such an eventuality.72 Now they were able to act swiftly and decisively amidst the confusion caused by actions taken by Polish security forces to disrupt civilian lines of communication used by Solidarity leaders and organizers. In addition to the obvious numbers of Soviet soldiers involved in the imposition of martial law, there may well have been others working undercover alongside Polish troops. There are many reports of soldiers in Polish uniforms who seemed not to know Polish. It is very likely that these were Soviet soldiers in disguise, deployed in key positions among the Polish troops to help assure the success of the coup.73 And the declaration of martial law was very much a success for the Polish government and the Soviet Union. Within hours of Jaruzelski's declaration of martial law, almost all of Solidarity's leaders, and in particular its chief and organizer, Lech Walesa, were under detention. Lines of communication throughout the country were cut, preventing any of the remaining leaders from organizing a general strike. Although there was some resistance to martial law, it was fragmented and disorganized by the destruction of Solidarity's communications network. Thus the Polish military was able to suppress any resistance with relative ease. In a few months, there was relative peace, and order had been restored in Poland.74

Recently there have been further labor disturbances in Poland. These disturbances began on April 25, 1988, and like the others are largely economic, rather than political, in nature. The workers want Jaruzelski to implement a package of real economic reforms.75 Particularly they want wage increases to compensate for recent price hikes. However the Soviets claim that the strikes will actually endanger the chances of real reform, rather than further it.76 Thus far this is the Soviets' only real response to the current crisis. However, Jaruzelski has taken some action against the strikers. In the early hours of May 6, riot police forcibly broke up a strike at the Nowa Huta steel mill in Krakow.77 However no action has been taken against the strikes in the Lenin Shipyards of Gdansk, largely because of its historic role as the birthplace of the Solidarity movement. Apparently the authorities fear that any drastic action taken against the strikers there could easily spark more radical determination among strikers elsewhere and destroy any hope of a peaceful settlement.

What will be the Soviet response to the current events? So long as Jaruzelski can maintain a reasonable semblance of order, it is quite unlikely that Soviet troops will move in to take control. However, the Soviets will not allow the disturbances to go on uncontrolled. They will probably make wide use of economic, political and military channels to communicate their disapproval to the Polish government and to the Polish people. In particular, the Soviets will probably use visits from high- ranking Soviet military personell connected with the WTO, who will likely meet with Polish leaders, much as Kulikov did during the 1980-81 events. Also, the Soviets will probably try to get as much political mileage out of any and all upcoming military maneuvers as they possibly can, although the CDE requirements that all large military exercizes be planned well in advance has reduced the ability of the Soviets to schedule maneuvers to coincide with times of peak disturbance. However, only time can tell what will be the actual course of events in Poland.

From the historical record we can see many of the ways in which the Soviet Union can use the WTO as a tool to influence and shape Polish domestic policy. First, the WTO serves as a vehicle for facilitating visits of important Soviet military officials to the government in Warsaw. Such visits enable the Soviets to bring their views on the crisis at hand directly to the Polish government. Secondly, the alliance serves as a convienient tool for covertly applying more direct military pressure on the Polish government and people. The Soviets are able to use military maneuvers to remind the Poles of the sort of military might which is at the disposal of the Soviets, should they feel that the situation warrants bringing it to bear against Poland. Also, these maneuvers can serve as a cover for bringing further Soviet troops into Poland beyond those normally garrisoned there. Finally, the maneuvers can serve as a cover for taking actual action against disturbances, as was the case during the Polish October of 1956. These various political functions make the WTO a convenient tool for the Soviets to manipulate Polish domestic policy. By skillful use of the WTO, the Soviet government is able to assure that Poland will continue on a course favorable to Soviet interests, without having to resort to actual use of military force, something which would bring down the censure of the West.


  1. Sarah Terry, ed. Soviet Policy in Eastern Europe, P. 258
  2. Martin Mayant, Poland: A Crisis for Socialism, P. 28
  3. Arthur R. Rachwald, Poland Between the Superpowers, P. 16
  4. Jack Bielasiak and Maurice D. Simon, Polish Politics, P. 271
  5. Terry, P. 259
  6. ibid
  7. ibid, P. 260
  8. ibid, P. 276
  9. M. K. Dziewanowski, The Communist Party of Poland, P. 302
  10. Christopher Jones, Soviet Influence in Eastern Europe, P. 63
  11. ibid. P. 13
  12. Maurice D. Simon and Roger Kanet, eds. Background to Crisis, P. 223
  13. Jakub Karpinski, Countdown, P. 43
  14. Myant, P. 41
  15. Karpinski, P. 49
  16. ibid
  17. Nicholas Bethel, Gomulka, P. 208
  18. ibid
  19. ibid
  20. Myant, P. 42-43
  21. Bethel, P. 209
  22. Dziewanowski, P. 276
  23. Bethel, P. 211
  24. Jones, P. 68
  25. Karpinski, P. 60
  26. Bielasiak and Simon, eds. P. 272
  27. Dziewanowski, P. 274
  28. Bethel, P. 214
  29. ibid, P. 216
  30. Karpinski, P. 60
  31. ibid, P. 72-73
  32. ibid, P. 73
  33. Adam Bromke and John W. Strong, eds. Gierek's Poland, P 17
  34. George Blazyinski, Flashpoint Poland, P. 21
  35. Dziewanowski, P. 307
  36. ibid
  37. Bromke and Strong, eds. P. 3
  38. Jan B. de Weydenthall, The Polish Drama: 1980-1981, P. 103
  39. Adam Bromke, Poland: the Protracted Crisis, P. 193-194
  40. Sidney I. Ploss Moscow and the Polish Crisis, P. 14
  41. ibid, P. 13-14
  42. Bielasiak and Simon, eds. P. 330
  43. Ploss, P. 47
  44. ibid, P. 64
  45. Jean-Yves Potel, The Summer Before the Frost, P. 206
  46. ibid, P. 47
  47. ibid, P. 53
  48. Terry, ed. P. 83
  49. Ploss, P. 103
  50. Bromke, Poland: The Last Decade, P. 184
  51. Ploss, P. 69
  52. Bielasiak and Simon, eds. P. 330
  53. Ploss, P. 77
  54. Bromke, Poland: the Last Decade, P. 188
  55. Ploss, P. 103
  56. ibid, P. 107
  57. Potel, P. 228
  58. Ploss, P. 107
  59. ibid, P. 114
  60. de Weydenthal, P. 130
  61. Bielasiak and Simon, eds. P. 330
  62. Ploss, P. 126
  63. ibid, P. 124
  64. ibid
  65. ibid, P. 130
  66. de Weydenthall, et al, P. 133
  67. ibid, P. 135-136
  68. ibid, P. 135
  69. Ploss, P. 141
  70. deWeydenthall, et al, P. 138
  71. Terry, P. 87-88
  72. ibid, P. 88
  73. Mary Craig, The Crystal Spirit P. 229-236
  74. Chicago Tribune May 4, 1988, P. 1, 10
  75. Chicago Tribune May 5, 1988, P. 1, 23
  76. Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1988, P. 1, 14


Bethel, Nicholas, Gomulka: His Poland, His Communism. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1969

Bielasiak, Jack and Maurice D. Simon, eds., Polish Politics: Edge of the Abyss. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1984

Blazynski, George, Flashpoint Poland. New York: Pergamon Press, 1979

Bromke, Adam, Poland: the Last Decade. Ontario, Canada: Mosaic Press, 1981

Bromke, Adam, Poland: the Protracted Crisis. Ontario, Canada: Mosaic Press, 1983

Bromke, Adam and John W. Strong, eds., Gierek's Poland. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1973

Chicago Tribune

Craig, Mary, The Crystal Spirit. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1986

Dziewanowski, M. K., The Communist Party of Poland. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1976

Jones, Christopher D., Soviet Influence in Eastern Europe. New York: Praeger Press, 1981

Karpinski, Jakub, Countdown. tr. by Olga Amsterdamka and Gene M. Moore, New York: Karz-Cohl Publishers, 1982

Myant, Martin, Poland: A Crisis for Socialism. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1982

Ploss, Sidney I., Moscow and the Polish Crisis. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1986

Potel, Jean-Yves, The Summer Before the Frost. London: Pluto Press, 1982

Rachwald, Arthur R., Poland Between the Superpowers. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1983

Simon, Maurice D. and Roger E. Kanet, eds., Background to Crisis: Policy and Politics in Gierek's Poland. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1981

Terry, Sarah Meiklejohn, Soviet Policy in Eastern Europe. New Haven, Conneticut: Yale University Press, 1984

de Weydenthall, Jan B., Bruce Porter, and Kevin Devlin, The Polish Drama: 1980-1982. Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath and Co. 1983

Copyright 1988, 1998 by Leigh Kimmel

For permission to quote or reprint, contact Leigh Kimmel

This paper was originally written for a class in European Arms Control taught by the faculty of Arms Control and Disarmament Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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