124. Information Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Eagleburger) to Secretary of State Haig 1


  • Soviet Policy Toward Poland in the Short Term

Summary: Moscow’s minimum objective in Poland—reestablishing order—has been satisfied, and in conditions which have put the Soviets on the desirable diplomatic high ground of defending Poland against outside interference and supporting sovereignty and legality. Over the next few months, the Soviets will be seeking to make martial law a success, to set Poland on the path to economic stabilization and recovery, while preserving as much of detente with the West as possible. Our own policy should seek to take the propaganda initiative away from the Soviets by emphasizing Soviet complicity in martial law, and to harmonize the Western response to Soviet involvement, while remaining alert not only to possible Soviet challenges in third areas, but also to possible Soviet flexibility on such issues as Afghanistan.

Soviet Objectives:

The principal Soviet objectives within Poland are:

To prop up, but not bail out, the Polish economy in order to mitigate the most extreme hardships and stave off a Polish default to Western creditors. Soviet generosity will be limited, since Moscow likely sees shortages as an inducement for Poles to work, as well as long-overdue punishment.

—To rebuild the discredited Communist Party from the ground up, with conservatives like Grabski and Olszowski brought to the fore, and Solidarity sympathizers purged.

—To allow Jaruzelski to work out a modus vivendi with a much-chastened Solidarity sufficient to get the economy moving again.2

In their handling of the East-West ramifications of the Polish crisis, the Soviets’ objectives are:

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To divide the U.S. and Western Europe over the response to the Polish crackdown, and to paint the U.S. as an unreliable, irresponsible power.

—To force the U.S. to accept once again the inviolability of the post-war division of Europe which, they claim, we were attempting—but failed—to overturn by “interfering” in Polish affairs.

To keep Poland out of the US-Soviet dialogue, and keep the INF and START processes moving forward.

Soviet policy:

With respect to Poland, the Soviets will let the Poles themselves determine the timing of steps to ease martial law; the Soviets will want to avoid even the slightest impression that Moscow or Warsaw is caving to Western pressure. In the meantime, Moscow will keep up both the public and behind-the-scenes pressure on Jaruzelski to deter him from making excessive concessions when he decides to reopen the dialogue with Solidarity (which the Soviets accept as unavoidable). In our view the Soviets will not press for further top-level leadership changes in the near term, unless Jaruzelski should suddenly begin to give away the store. They probably will provide a modest, but steady flow of economic assistance to avert food riots and the like which could undercut martial law’s prospects, and necessitate direct Soviet intervention. They may also be more willing, with martial law succeeding, to provide 11th-hour funds when necessary to keep the Western rescheduling operation from going under.

In all this, the Soviets are likely to allow Jaruzelski considerable leeway in how he deals with Solidarity and the Church. They must recognize that attempting a Kadar-type solution in Poland (a Party hard-liner imposing reforms from above) would not get the Poles to work, meaning a decade or more of economic stagnation and, by extension, of total Soviet subsidization. The Soviets may therefore be prepared to see a return to the status quo of the early post-August, 1980 period (“strict observance of the Gdansk agreements”), rather than pressing for a total rollback to the pre-August situation.

The political character of the “new” Solidarity will clearly be at the top of the bargaining agenda not only among Poles, but between Poles and Soviets. Moscow would no doubt prefer a thoroughly tame Solidarity, but they can probably be brought to acquiesce in a Solidarity with considerable autonomy on economic issues, including a role in worker self-management a la Yugoslavia, and the right to strike over economic issues. The Soviets would be banking on the hope that, with the experience of martial law, Solidarity moderates would be able effectively to isolate the radicals, and the union’s political inclinations would be self-contained. A partial reversal of the crackdown along these lines would be a success for us vis-a-vis both the Poles and the Soviets, it would be a worthy near-term objective for U.S. policy.

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East-West implications:

The Soviets will probably try to counter our sanctions and stave off similar measures by the Europeans with a renewed peace offensive in Europe: further emphasis on arms control, possibly involving some new “initiatives”; increased efforts to sell the Soviet concept of detente-sans-linkage and to emphasize the viability of a Europe-only detente at a time of US-Soviet tension.

Outside of Europe, the Soviets may be tempted to respond to our sanctions by bloodying our noses in such areas as Central America, Somalia, or Southern Africa. Although the Soviets probably feel over-exposed as it is, with Poland and Afghanistan to worry about, this is a real possibility we should be prepared for. It is also possible that the Soviets will make an effort to appear more cooperative on other aspects of East-West dialogue, such as on the question of an Afghanistan political settlement, both to embarrass us and to encourage the Europeans to distance themselves from us. If so, there may be possibilities for movement on other aspects of the US-Soviet agenda even as we move to punish Moscow for its role in Poland.

All this underscores the need for us to counter Soviet policy in the coming months by:

—Keeping the public spotlight on Soviet connivance in the Polish crackdown, and debunking the Soviet claim that Jaruzelski’s action was in defense of the “inviolable” status quo;3

—Making a maximum effort to close the gap between the U.S. and European approaches to the Soviets; and

—Being alert to possible Soviet probes and challenges in third areas, as well as to potential Soviet flexibility on geopolitical issues like Afghanistan.

These objectives will come together in your meeting with Gromyko at the end of January.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Haig Papers, Department of State, Day File, Box 64, January 4, 1982. Secret. Sent through Stoessel. Drafted by Vershbow on December 31, 1981; cleared by Simons, Herspring, and Scanlan. A stamped notation at the top of the memorandum reads: “AMH.” Eagleburger sent the memorandum to Haig under cover of an undated handwritten note: “AH: This is a short think piece on what the Soviets may be up to re Poland over the next several weeks.” Haig initialed Eagleburger’s handwritten note.
  2. Haig wrote over this sentence and the one below it: “Don’t agree. Mission is Crush Solidarity & we need more action to prevent it!!!”
  3. Haig drew a line from this sentence to the bottom of the memorandum and wrote: “How about more action against both USSR & Poland.”