Both Germanys are concerned about the growing Polish labor unrest. West Germany fears that a continuing unresolved crisis might-trigger Soviet military intervention and raise tensions along the whole East-West border in northern Europe. East Germany fears that tensions could endanger the East-West GErman detente, which both sides have so far managed to shield from the post-Afghan freeze in East-West superpower detente.
Soviet military intervention in Poland is not considered the most likely development, given the so-far-peaceful demeanor of the strikers and Soviet avoidance of an invasion of Poland at times of worker unrest there in past decades.
But the unpredictable combination of the strikers' firm political demands and the edginess of an aged Soviet Politburo already fighting Afghan rebels in the East is ringing warning bells in both Bonn and East Berlin. West and East German leaders alike want to do everything in their power to promote a quick, peaceful settlement in Poland.
But there is little that Bonn or East Berlin -- can do to help. Bonn already has added what it could to economic stabilization in Poland by pressuring private bankers to extend a 1.2 billion deutschemark ($675 million) loan this month to debt-ridden Warsaw.
The West German Scocial Democratic-Liberal government's efforts to stabilize Poland's leader, Edward Gierek, whom West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is known to admire personally, have roused some controversy inside West Germany. Franz Josef Strauss, Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) head and conservative opposition chancellor candidate, asserts that it's not Bonn's job to prop up communist economies. Christian Democratic Union head Helmut Kohl, however, the leader of the CSU's sister party, declares that government and opposition agree on the desirability of "long-term economic cooperation" with Poland.
West German politicians of all shades are especially concerned about the Warsaw Pact maneuvers -- the largest in 10 years -- scheduled for the first half of September. Soviet troops to reinforce the 19 crack Red Army divisions already stationed in East Germany have to travel through Poland (unless they detour through Czechoslovakia) to get to East Germany. There would be ample opportunity for them to linger in Poland with the two Soviet divisions already stationed there -- as Red Army troops lingered in Czechoslovakia 12 years ago this summer prior to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
So far there seems little risk that the Polish strikes over poor supplies (let alone political restrictions) might spread to East Germany. The Polish example apparently has inspired an imitation strike over meat shortages in only one other Eastern European country: Romania. And the greater cynicism of the East Germans, plus their traditional dislike of the Poles, probably immunizes them against a Polish-type romanticism.
The East German cynicism was summed up by one man-in-the-street comment heard by a West German reporter in East Berlin: Strikes "don't win anything other than the famous 'brotherly assistance.'" Such military "brotherly assistance" from the Soviet Union put down the East German worker uprising in 1953, and there has been no major labor unrest in East Germany since then.
East German news media played on this expectation of Soviet intervention once they finally began covering the Polish "temporary work stoppages." After three weeks of silence, Neues Deutschland stressed Polish leaders' pointed allusions to the interest of Poland's "allies" in a Polish settlement in its first reports Aug. 14 and 16.
Beyond East Germany's awareness of Soviet troops in their country, is an additional barrier to following the Polish worker's example. Curiously, the historical German-Polish hostility has lingered on between communist Poland and communist East Germany much longer than between communist Poland and capitalist West Germany.