Tough talk: East bloc warns Poland and West
The latest East-bloc salvos on Poland appear to be aimed as much at the West as at the Poles themselves. They were delivered Monday at the Czechoslovak Communist Party congress in Prague -- with visiting Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev applauding warmly.
The Communist states view developments in Poland with great disquiet, Czechoslovak party leader Gustav Husak conceded in his introductory address.
"We are not hiding the fact," He said. "This situation continues to disturb us greatly."
Much of the rest of his speech, however, seemed a calculated reaction to the latest pronouncements from the West, mainly the United States. These pronouncements have suggested that Soviet preparations for possible intervention in Poland were reaching the point where such a move was being contemplated and might even be imminent.
"All those who are attempting to use events in Poland for instigating an antisocialist campaign must be reminded of our clear standpoint," said Mr. Husak.
"That is, that the protection of the socialist system and the achievements of its peoples are not only the concern of each socialist state but also the joint concern of all the states of the socialist community."
Mr. Brezhnev sat by, listening intently to this restatement of the so-called Brezhnev doctrine. It was first used by the Russians and the post-Dubcek leadership in Prague --intervention to halt the reform movement in Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Mr. Husak also recalled the earlier military assertion of Soviet authority within the bloc under Mr. Brezhnev's predecessors, in East Germany and Hungary in the 1950s. (He did not mention how reformminded Polish leaders had stood up to similar threats in 1956 and earlier and thereby averted Soviet interference.)
"International imperialism," the Czechoslovak leader said, "had tried to weaken our unity on those occasions and it didn't work."
In Poland's case, the Warsaw Pact powers have already spelled out (at their Moscow meeting in December) that they will "come to the assistance" of the Polish party should it lose control of events.The Polish leadership has also announced that, in such a situation, it would not hesitate itself to request such assistance.
Mr. Brezhnev, the only party chief from among Czechoslovakia's allies to be present, was expected to address the congress April 7.
Poland is represented by a member of the Politburo, Stefan Olszowski, and delegations from other East European states are at the same short-of-top level.
The choice of Mr. Olszowski is perhaps significant. He is one of a trio whose removal from the Politburo was pressed for by the party rank and file prior to the March 19 plenum.
The three are regarded as opposed to over-radical reform, anxious to curb the new independent union Solidarity, with its mass, nationwide support, and to head off other far-reaching changes such as the reduction of censorship promised in the party's "renewal" program. (The battle over censorship, particularly over the reformers' draft of a new law compared with the more limited proposals from the government, will be carried a stage further in the Polish parliament on Friday.)
In fact, the party plenum made no changes in the Politburo because, it was reliably said, the Russians insisted the Poles maintain an outward image, at least, of unity. That, among other things, meant retaining those officials whose desire to brake the reform movement would be in keeping with Russian ideas.
It remains to be seen what Mr. Brezhnev will have to say about Poland. But, given the otherwise low level of this Prague gathering, his comments may not -- at this juncture --go much beyond Mr. Husak's, nor point to any concrete new step.
He also may reply to the flood of statements from the US over the weekend implying that Soviet action over Poland was getting nearer and warning of the consequences for international relations.
There seems some reason to believe that an equally valid reason for his presence in Prague is to take an opportunity, in the heart of Europe, to: (1) repeat the call he made at the Soviet congress in February for a new all-European disarmament effort; and, (2) to endeavor to stir up more West European popular feeling on the subject of nuclear weapons in Europe, a subject about which he has just been conferring in Moscow With West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher.
In an otherwise quiet Polish atmosphere, what the US was saying caused some concern among official Poles. "It can be dangerous and counterproductive," remarked one.
Referring to US and West German indications that economic assistance to Poland would be conditional on there being neither a Soviet intervention nor the use of internal Polish force against the reform movement, one Warsaw newspaper commented: "As an ally of the Soviet Union and a member of the Warsaw Pact we must insist on avoidance of giving a political character to assistance."