Kremlin insider: invasion unlikely

A highly placed Soviet official says the Kremlin is not currently considering intervention in Poland. In a lengthy informal conversation with this reporter, he said that only a drastic worsening of the situation there could prompt the Soviet leadership to weigh such a move. Even then, he said, "all [other] possibilities" would first be considered.

The official is not a member of the Politburo, where ultimate Soviet power lies. But he does stand high on the political ladder and gets regular access to information on top-level discussions and decisions.

In the past, his private comments have proven an accurate policy barometer.

On relations with the United states, meanwhile, the official:

* Sharply criticized what he termed the Reagan administration's dangerous and threatening foreign policies.

* Said the Soviet Union had "no illusions" that the Sept. 23 meeting between Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. would produce an instant upturn in relations with the US.

* Predicted "no immediate success" in any renewed arms talks with Washington, but expressed hope that such negotiations could provide a "precedent and a link" for rebuilding a better super-power relationship.

On Poland, public statements by President Leonid Brezhnev and other officials have suggested that Moscow is leaving all options open.

The senior source interviewed by the Monitor left much the same impression. But in marked contrast to some Western assess ments of the Polish crisis, he said that at present direct Soviet intervention in Poland was not even being considered.

"If we were to consider it, to decide, this would be only when forces [in Poland] were completely polarized, when an open struggle . . . a kind of civil strife . . . had begun," he said.

Acrid commentaries in the Soviet press notwithstanding, he stressed that such a point had not been reached in Poland.

It was unproductive, the official said, to "fantasize" about possible Soviet intervention at a time when "the Poles still have to work out" key issues.

He had no kind words for "extremists in [the] Solidarity" union movement. He said they included "even people not against the idea of hanging communists." These people, he charged, wanted to turn the union into a ruling political party.

"But at the same time, they are scared of responsibility. They are not prepared, obviously, for tackling [Poland's] economic problems. They seek only to destabilize, damage, and demand. . . ."

Yet the official made a clear distinction -- one blurred in recent Soviet news media commentaries -- between this group and Solidarity's rank and file. The latter group, he said, is mostly "just normal people."

The official said that both Solidarity and Poland's ruling Communist Party faced internal difficulties. But he added that Moscow still felt the party was in generally better shape, stronger and more stable, than it had been several months ago.

"In a certain measure," he said, "the party has been healed" by the recent Polish tension.

To the extent that the official's remarks on Poland reflect Kremlin thinking, they would suggest that recently intensified Soviet media criticism of the situation in Poland is less a harbinger of intervention than a further bid to exert public pressure on the Poles.

The Kremlin hope would seem to be that such a campaign will encourage a further strengthening of the Communist Party there, and at least some degree of retreat by Solidarity.

The more pessimistic of Western analysts have argued that this interpretation does not jibe well with an officially orchestrated series of open letters from Soviet workers to Poland sharply critical of Solidarity. But a growing number of diplomats here suggests that is not necessarily so.

The letters are being officially slated as a response to a recent Solidarity message to all East-bloc workers, in support of creation of independent unions elsewhere.

On such matters of ideology, Soviet officials are always sensitive, literal, legalistic. Their gut response is to reply in kind.

It was this impulse, no doubt, that led Foreign Minister Gromyko to take time in his Sept. 22 address at the UN General Assembly to slap back at the Reagan administration's perceived public slander of the socialist system.

"In this sense," commented one Western diplomat in Moscow, "I think it would have been surprising if the Soviets had notm mounted this kind of [letter] campaign in response to Solidarity, no matter what their ultimate intentions are toward Poland."

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.