120. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Discussion with Ambassador Dobrynin December 18 about Poland

After dinner at the British Embassy December 18, Ambassador Dobrynin and I had a private conversation about Poland. I stressed our great concern about the repression in Poland, the arrests of Solidarity officials and others and said that, as both the President and the Secretary have underlined, it is essential that moves be made urgently in the direction of reconciliation and compromise. Jaruzelski had said that the process of renewal would be conducted but we see no signs of that. If the present situation continued, I said it would inevitably have an adverse impact on U.S.-Soviet relations, since the influence of the Soviets in Poland was overwhelming. I said that any intervention by the Soviets themselves of course would have an even greater negative effect.

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Dobrynin claimed that Jaruzelski is a strong Polish nationalist who was acting in the best interests of the Polish nation. Much had been tolerated in Poland, but, particularly with the meeting in Radom of Solidarity, it had become clear that the real aim of Solidarity was to seize political power in Poland. Dobrynin said that this was beyond the limit of acceptability. He stated that the Soviets would not object if Solidarity wished to form a strong trade union, conduct strikes there and institute self management in Polish factories. All of this could be tolerated but an effort to take over political power could not.

Dobrynin defended the use of force by the Polish regime, saying that all governments have the right to defend the state structure and to preserve law and order. He also said that, as we have seen, the Soviets have been moderate and restrained in their attitude. Not one Soviet soldier has participated in any of the events in Poland.

Dobrynin claimed that the Soviets have given five billion dollars in hard currency assistance to Poland in addition to raw materials and other commodities. He saw no reason why the U.S. should not continue its assistance to Poland.

Dobrynin felt that the U.S. position concerning Polish developments had been moderate and responsible, although he noted that the President’s statement the previous day had been notably sharper in tone.2 He acknowledged, however, that the President refused to get into details of options open for action. Dobrynin felt that this was a good thing. Dobrynin stressed his hope that both the U.S. and the Soviet Union would look at developments in Poland without emotion and would not permit them to be the cause for deterioration of our relations.

I observed that there is already a great deal of emotion in this country about the Polish events. The fact that we have so many people in this country of Polish origin adds to the strength of these sentiments. When we observe the repression taking place in Poland it is inevitable that emotions will rise and that pressures on the government to do something about the situation will increase. Dobrynin rejoined that the Soviet people also have emotions. They remember how many Soviet soldiers were killed in liberating Poland from the Nazis and they are profoundly upset by what has been happening in Poland over the last year and a half.

In concluding the conversation, I reiterated our great concern and stressed again the necessity of establishing dialogue in Poland between [Page 391] the authorities, Solidarity, and the Church which could lead to a process of reconciliation.

Walter J. Stoessel, Jr. 3
  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S–I Records: Walter Stoessel Files, Lot 82D307, Memoranda for the Record. Confidential. Prepared by Stoessel.
  2. Reference is to Reagan’s statement at the start of his news conference on December 17. (Public Papers: Reagan , 1981, pp. 1161–1170)
  3. Stoessel initialed the memorandum above his typed signature.