Latest pressure on Poland -- economic
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According to Polish figures, between last year and the present time this asistance has included about 240 million rubles worth ($314 million) of goods, plus 1 billion rubles ($1.31 billion) in credit and the equivalent of $1 billion divided equally between free exchange currency and economic aid. A moratorium until 1985 was also granted on the repayment by the Poles of credits granted by the Soviets during the previous five-year plan.Skip to next paragraph
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During the first six months of this year, Polish deliveries to the USSR fell by at least 20 percent compared with the same six months in 1980. There was an especially heavy downturn in coal (this country's strongest export weapon), sulfur, and copper.
The Polish party newspaper Trybuna Ludu commented some time ago that the Soviets had "taken no reprisals in trade with Poland but we must realize that such trade cannot be conducted long term." Since that comment, the Polish economy has steadily gone further downhill and, with it, its foreign trade with both East and West.
Some of Poland's neighbors have shown their displeasure more brutally than the Russians. This was exemplified by a Neues Deutschland comment Sept. 8 in which the East German party newspaper said that giving aid to Poland was like "pouring something into a bottomless barrel."
It could not be continued, the paper said, unless some results -- by which, of course, was also meant political results in the struggle with Solidarity -- became visible.
Poland's economic dependence on the Soviet Union cannot be overestimated. The latter provides 80 percent of its crude oil, 100 percent of its gas, over 71 percent of its iron ores (the rest from Sweden and Brazil), and about 70 percent of things like chromium, manganese, and cotton. Its only oil supplier of any significance outside Comecon -- Iraq (11 percent) -- is now an uncertainty.
The Poles' own planning mission came back from Moscow empty-handed, it seemed , except for some hopes that the Russians might help by making some use of industrial capacity in this country now left idle by the drastic cutbacks in investment; and also utilizing Soviet machinery and facilities bought earlier by the Poles but not yet installed for the same reason.
The additional aid given since August last year was without doubt reckoned by the Russians worthwhile if it kept Poland on its feet or, longer term, avoided some other kind of intervention. The latter type of intervention, political or military, still might become inevitable if there was a final economic collapse -- accompanied in all probability by civil strife posing a grave threat to the Soviet Union's western defense line.
These criteria would seem still to hold good. For the Russians there really is no option but to continue economic help to Poland.
Continuously there is news of some further worsening of the economy. Only a few days ago an official report said there had been "no major improvement at all." Coal output was down more than 20 percent, despite the sending of 9,000 soldiers into the pits, and oil refining had dropped by 17 percent.
Moreover, the farmers -- 80 percent of them private -- are simply not selling livestock to the state markets. September sales, in fact, are so far 20,000 tons down on last year and meat imports to date are only 8,000 tons.
It has been said the Russians could be thinking of putting trade on a strictly reciprocal basis of mutual fulfillment of obligations. In all likelihood this won't happen immediately, but the implicit warning is there.