Yugoslavs who are well informed about both Poland and the Soviet Union think there is still some risk of Soviet military intervention in Poland, even after Moscow tolerated this month's party congress in Warsaw and its consolidation of the reform leadership there.
They also pass on, however (without adding their own evaluation), the hopeful Polish view that the Soviet military establishment opposes intervention.
In the judgment conveyed to the Yugoslavs by one unidentified Polish Central Committee member, the Soviet generals oppose intervention for purely military reasons after any invasion. They would lose the contribution of Poland's 16 Army divisions, as well as its Navy and Air Force. They reportedly estimate that a further 30 Soviet and other Warsaw Pact divisions to the Warsaw Pact would be tied down in subduing the resistance of the Polish Army and saboteurs.
The Soviet generals are therefore said to regard nonintervention as the lesser of two evils, as long as the poles themselves do not leave the Warsaw Pact. (So far there has been no question of Poland's withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact as Hungary did in 1956. The Yugoslavs believe the Poles are far too realistic to bait the Russians by such a move.)
As related by the Yugoslavs, the Polish Central Committee member who has discussed the issue with them further views the pro-intervention faction in the Soviet Politburo as being led by veteran ideologist Mikhail Suslov. Suslov, in this view, fears erosion of Soviet-style authoritarian communist rule elsewhere in Eastern Europe if Poland succeeds in its pronounced shift to pluralism.
If this assessment is true, it reveals a sharp contrast between Soviet military views about Poland today and about Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979-80. In both previous cases the Soviet military is believed to have supported a Soviet invasion in order to bring about desired political changes.
In the Yugoslavs' own evaluation, the crucial question will be whether the polish leadership (including in its broadest sense the Communist Party, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and the Solidarity trade union) can remain as united as it has so far. If so, the risk of Soviet intervention will be minimized. If not, it will be heightened.
As well-informed Yugoslavs look at other Warsaw Pact countries in Eastern Europe, they see Hungary's Janos Kadar as playing the most persuasive role in quietly urging the Soviet Union not to invade Poland. They see the insecure Prague leadership, which was installed by the Kremlin after the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, as playing the villain's role (rather more so than the East German leadership) in pressing Moscow to do something to halt the democratization in neighboring Poland.