308. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

17440. Subject: Protest to MFA on Poland. Ref: State 291234.2

1. (S-entire text)

2. The Soviet response to my demarche on Poland (reftel) was essentially to reject that we have any right to raise the subject of Poland. Deputy Minister Kovalev received me November 3 in place of Korniyenko who is said to be ill. After I had made the instructed points in reftel, Kovalev, who seemed nervous throughout the meeting, made an initial weak attempt to assert that Soviet radio was doubtless simply repeating something which had been said to Western or even American media about US interference in Polish internal affairs. Then in consultations with his notetaker, Sokolov from the USA division, Kovalev hit upon the argument that the statement made by the Department spokesman contained a “sign” of interference because it tried to drive a wedge between the people of Poland and their government. This could be the basis for the Soviet radio broadcast.

3. Warming to this sophistry, Kovalev went on to say that the reference I had made to concern for Soviet intentions in Poland was irrelevant and had no connection with US-Soviet or Soviet-Polish relations. He implied that I was out of order raising Poland and he noted that he was replying to the strong terms of my reference with strong terms of [Page 910] his own.

4. I replied that the matter of Poland was not at all irrelevant to US-Soviet relations. It seemed to me that the world situation was becoming more and more dangerous. There were three crises now: Afghanistan, Iran/Iraq, and Poland. It was in the mutual interests of the USSR and the US to preserve peace, and in this connection it was in our mutual interest to see that there was no outside interference in Poland.

5. Kovalev responded that the Department spokesman had sought to make a distinction between the Polish trade unions and the Polish Government, which constituted interference in internal Polish affairs. Governments represent states in international affairs, and any dealing with or reference to other elements in a state was interference. As to my point about Soviet intentions, it was an act which we had to reject in strong terms. Mixing Soviet objections to US interference in Poland with threats to peace could only be met by misunderstanding and ridicule.

6. I told him that I could not see the point he was trying to make. We wanted to see a peaceful settlement in Poland. Everything I had heard in Soviet media seemed to imply that the Soviet Union did, too. The spokesman had said nothing that departed from this. Did the Soviets not want to see a peaceful settlement? Telling him I wanted to be sure I understood him, I asked if even the expression of hope for a solution in Poland acceptable to all Polish sides constituted in his mind interference in Poland’s affairs. He immediately answered “yes.” The Soviets had already stated very clearly to us their position on Poland. There were no grounds for discussion [garble] Poland: “to discuss it would be interference in Poland’s internal affairs.”

7. I said that I didn’t want to beat a dead horse. I could see how, if we were to say that we hoped the Poles could not settle their affairs, that would be interference in their affairs. But I could otherwise not see any basis for charges of interference. I did see, however, a clear need to understand the matter in the context of the dangerous world situation. US-Soviet relations were already burdened.

8. On that note the conversation on this subject ended.

9. Department please pass Embassy Warsaw and other posts as appropriate.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 84, USSR: 11/80–1/81. Secret; Cherokee; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. See Document 307.