Kremlin steps up efforts to keep Poland in line

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

A grim Kremlin, alarmed at the way individual expression keeps defying state authority in neighboring, strategic Poland, is intensifying efforts on a number of fronts to restore its own control.

Armed Soviet invasion still appears to be a last resort, to be avoided if possible. But latest reports in the Soviet press, and the first public comment by a senior Central Committee official for seven weeks, show the Kremlin laying an ideological basis for an invasion if it is considered necessary.

Tough-minded comments by Central Committee spokesman Leonid Zamyatin on Soviet television Nov. 15, later sent around the world by the news agency Tass, were designed to stress that the Kremlin either sees or professes to see the hand of the West in Polish unrest in both moral and financial support.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Nor does the Kremlin want Warsaw to borrow more money from the West. A decade of borrowing has put Poland more than $20 billion in debt. Debt repayments this year alone are almot $8 billion, yet Warsaw is reported to be asking for more loans from a number of Western trading partners, and $3 billion from the United States alone.

Prospects are poor. US private banks want to ease existing payment terms rather than create new obligations. The US government has loaned comparatively little money to warsaw and has no means by which to extend more. (The US Export-Import Bank only guarantees project loans.)

Moscow itself has gven about $1 billion worth of aid to Poland since May, from wheat to rice to rolled-over (postponed) debt repayments.

Mr. Zamyatin's TV comments also seemed to be a warning to Warsaw: "You are deep enough in debt to the imperialists as it is." He told Soviet viewers Poland had sunk into debt.

His general remarks, latest events in Eastern Europe, and Western sources in Moscow all combine to suggest these messages flowing from the Kremlin to the main actors in the Polish drama:

To leaders of the Polish Communist Party:

"If you want to remain an independent country, be certain socialism stays in control. If you want more time to solve your economic crisis and more Soviet economic aid, be sure you limit the influence of the so-called independent trade unions. You've given them concessions, now make sure they work harder to help the country."

To other capitals in Eastern Europe, the Soviets urge:

"Put pressure on the Poles. Isolate them. Hold meetings between leaders and issue statements opposing Western influence in Poland, make it clear you won't stand for any weakening of a fellow member of the Warsaw Pact."

To the West:

"Keep out. This is a family affair. You have already interfered by talking about the Polish workers.Stay away."

And to Polish union leader Lech Walesa:

"You've got your legal status. Now forget your protests and helping other workers, and start working before we and the other Warsaw Pact states do something more than talk about maneuvers . . . ."

Though the Kremlin wants to avoid an invasion, it would launch one if it sees party control seriously threatened in a country across whose southern areas its own supply lines stretch to 19 Soviet divisions in East Germany.

Mr. Zamyatin revealed the Kremlin's rising concern when he said on TV Nov. 15 : "Millions of dollars are streaming from the West for the support of opposition groups in Poland. . . . Bourgeois propaganda is . . . instigating some groups . . . to shaping the opposition structurally and legally . . . ." He gave no details.

In the past Soviet papers have objected to an AFL-CIO strike fund set up in Washington for potential use on behalf of Mr. Walesa and his strikers. They have criticized conservative parties in West Germany for allegedly raising money for Polish independent unions.

The Soviet press doesn't say much these days, but it has just summarized a speech by Polish Premier Josef Pinkowski in Lodz in a way that indicates some of the official thinking here. The summary, issued by Tass and printed in Pravda Nov. 13, omitted Mr. Pinkowski's statement that the return to normal production was too slow and that Poland faced economic woes for two or three years to come.

It selected those parts of the speech indicating the Polish party was in firm control. It quoted Mr. Pinkowski as saying, "Those opposed to socialism are opposed to the independence of the people. We shall defend socialism as it is necessary to defend Poland's independence."

Pravda chose to include for Soviet readers the section in which Mr. Pinkowski announced that meat and "animal fats" would be rationed, and it gave Mr. Pinkowski's figure for total losses in the third quarters as well as October: 80 billion Zlotys ($2.7 billion). Clearly Moscow is urging Warsaw to bring in reforms that will get the economy moving but won't threaten party control.

It is thought that when party leader Stalislaw Kania was here in the late October for his brief talk with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, he outlined his strategy toward the Solidarity union.

That strategy: to concede on the issue of registering the union, then insist Mr. Walesa make a counterconcession of pledging higher productivity and more discipline.

Moscow has also moved to isolate poland from the Warsaw Pact's key front-line state, East Germany. east Germany has sharply reduced the flow of tourists across the border with Poland (and has cut down contacts with West Germany as well).

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...