77. Memorandum From Richard Pipes of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Allen)1


  • Crisis Areas

Before leaving on my well-earned vacation (August 3 to August 14 and August 24 to August 28), I would like to summarize my thoughts about the outstanding world crises involving the Soviet Union and the Communist Bloc. There are three of those, in descending order of urgency (though not necessarily of importance): Poland, Israel-Lebanon, and China. (S)


Poland is entering a period of acute economic crisis: this crisis has major social and political implications. The economy is in shambles as basic items of food and other necessities of everyday living are disappearing. I am told that thousands of combines and trucks necessary to collect the coming harvest are standing idle for lack of spare parts. If the situation deteriorates further there is a possibility of massive strikes and a social breakdown; this, in turn, could lead to the introduction of emergency laws and the gradual reestablishment of controls by pro-Soviet forces which are continuing to reorganize their forces. (The Jaruzelski-Kania Government could easily swing the other way under such conditions.) Should this occur, the Soviet Union could bring Poland back into the fold without recourse to armed intervention. The consequences would be catastrophic:

—The cause of economic and political reform in Eastern Europe would be discredited for a long time on the grounds that freedom spells chaos—and yet the best hope for world peace lies in Communist regimes being compelled to undergo unpalatable reforms.

—The Polish armed forces, now of little use to the Warsaw Pact, would be revivified, significantly enhancing the fighting capabilities of the Communist Bloc.

—European neutralists would have grounds to say “We told you so” and accuse us of alarmist behavior: clearly there is no Soviet military danger to anyone. (S)

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To prevent such a catastrophe from happening, two things should be done:

—Some form of immediate financial help to bail Poland out for the next few months, with no strings attached; it appears there is support in Congress for such an emergency measure.

—Coordinated Allied action in the form of a mini-Marshall Plan that would entail both a realistic Polish reconstruction program over so many years, possibly under the supervision of the IMF, and large-scale Allied assistance. (S)

Middle East

Here it seems to me that the gravest danger lies in the PLO buildup with Libyan and Soviet assistance. The intention, if I perceive it correctly, is to transform the PLO gunmen in Lebanon from a hit-and-run force into a modern army that would spearhead an assault on Israel. This army would not be restricted in its activities by the kind of internal and international considerations that affect, say, a Jordan or even a Syria. All this was missed in the journalistic hubbub about Israeli bombing of Beirut. (S)

I offer no proposals on how to cope with this major problem. It seems to me, however, that in public pronouncements on the Middle East, Reagan officials should take into account the following facts:

—The major Arab states, notably Saudi Arabia, have no alternative to U.S. support—they have nowhere else to go, no matter what they threaten; for this reason they need not be appeased and should be pressured to give up support of the PLO.

—The real problem in the Middle East is not Israel’s refusal to recognize the Palestinians but the refusal of all Arab states, Egypt excepted, to recognize Israel: this plain fact ought to be reiterated in all our pronouncements until it is perceived as the kind of axiom that it really is.

—To the extent that I know and understand Begin, threats and punishments make him ornery: he needs reassurances. I am quite confident that his willingness to agree to an armistice in Lebanon was due mainly to the supportive words of the President. This is the only way to approach the man. (S)


The Soviet Union is genuinely worried about our improving relations with China: this is no mere bluff, as is so much else of what they say. Their military, who do not make policy but have a very strong influence on it, are deeply concerned by the prospect of having to plan for a possible two-front war against two modern armies. This must arouse tempting thoughts of preventive war. (Lest we forget, the German General Staff in 1914 decided to press for war because it found that the modernization plan of the Russian armies, carried out with [Page 234] French help and meant to be concluded three years later, would have spelled the doom of the Schlieffen Plan.) It seems to me most important as soon as possible to:

—formulate a policy of rewards and punishments for the USSR in terms of our military relationship with China; and

—communicate it clearly and forcefully to Moscow. (S)

I have made this point before and only wish to reemphasize it. (U)

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Pipes Files, CHRON 07/28/1981–07/31/1981. Secret. Sent for information.