The year 1982: the events that count

In world affairs in 1982 the most headline news arose out of the efforts by the Soviet Union to hang on to the territories it holds and by Israel to extend the range of its influence beyond its recognized pre-1967 frontiers.

Behind these surface features were two subtler changes in the relations of the world's nations - with long-term implications. Both Western Europe and China put distance between themselves and Washington. They did not move into, but certainly took steps toward, a neutral position between the two superpowers, the United States and the USSR.

More spectacular, but of less wide-ranging implication and application, was the quick and decisive repulse by Britain of the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands.

There were interesting but inconclusive diplomatic negotiations going on all year over Cuban troops in Angola, and South African troops in Namibia.

Also, President Ronald Reagan changed secretaries of state on June 25 when Alexander Haig resigned and was replaced by George Shultz. The tones and overtones of American foreign policy softened with the change.

And on Nov. 10 the Soviets got a new leader in Yuri Andropov with an appearance of some similar softening in Soviet tone and posture.

But the major surface events of 1982 were the attempts by Moscow to keep its empire intact and by Israel to push out farther its effective range of influence over surrounding Arab territory.

The year opened with Moscow in trouble both along its military forefield in Eastern Europe and its relatively new outpost in Afghanistan. The Afghans continued the fight through all of the third year. Poland during the previous year had attempted to throw off the Soviet yoke. The chosen instrument was Solidarity. Moscow in turn chose the Polish Army as the instrument for trying to bring Poland back under effective control.

The attempt at resubjugation of Poland began just before the turn of last year. The battle over suppression of Solidarity lasted through the year. By the end of the year the Polish government had won the battle. The Polish Army had remained loyal to the government. Solidarity was unable to arouse and organize the Polish nation into an underground resistance movement comparable to the one that plagued the German armies in Poland throughout World War II.

But can the Polish government build a long-term future for Poland on its short-term victory over Solidarity? The reach of the Poles for independence through Solidarity underlined the restlessness throughout Eastern Europe which forces the Soviet Union to use its military power to hold its imperial conquests in line. The whole structure could have fallen apart had Poland made good its escape. The Soviet empire is back together now, but only because of decisive Soviet military power in the area.

The Polish affair also disclosed a structural weakness in the Soviet system. An important reason for the popularity of Solidarity in Poland was the sheer incompetence of the Communist Party there. Since to most Poles communism means Soviet domination, the good Poles decline service in and for the party. So the party is made up largely of social misfits and bureaucrats who would lose out in a free job market. They go into the party for jobs, power, and access to privileges. They cannot plan intelligently or operate efficiently.

Washington fumbled at trying to bring help both to Afghans and Poles by using economic sanctions. The effort had no visible effect on Soviet behavior. It did damage US ties with its European allies who refused to support the sanctions.

President Reagan actually tried to prevent the export of machinery from allied countries to the Soviet Union for the Siberian gas pipeline. The British, French, West Germans, and Italians ignored President Reagan's sanctions.

Thus the allies in Western Europe declared their independence from Washington leadership. They will collaborate when it is a question of perceived mutual interest. They will no longer be led from Washington. For the first time the West European members of NATO were acting overtly as a unit and bargaining consciously as a unit with Washington.

Washington was as unsuccessful in 1982 in restraining Israel from the path of conquest as it was in leading the allies. An Israeli Army was poised at the beginning of the year for an invasion of Lebanon. Washington warned and cajoled against it. The Israelis held back until an attempted assassination in London of the Israeli ambassador gave the excuse.

At the year's end President Reagan was trying to negotiate the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, and of Syrian and PLO units from northern Lebanon. None of them seemed in any hurry to leave. The Israelis were establishing some administrative control over southern Lebanon.

Mr. Reagan had launched a Middle East peace plan on Sept. 1. It contemplated a Palestinian political entity for the West Bank and Gaza Strip and called on Israel to cease from building more housing for Jews in the West Bank and Gaza.

The change in China's position in the world dates from Jan. 11, when the Reagan White House in Washington announced it would continue to sell to Taiwan the kind of fighter aircraft that are the main feature of the Taiwanese Air Force. Washington would not sell a more advanced model, but would continue to supply Taiwan with weapons.

Peking at once protested at what it chose to regard as an unfriendly act. Moscow proposed to renew talks with Peking over ''normalization'' of Sino-Soviet relations. On March 7 a high-level Soviet delegation arrived in Peking.

By year's end Peking had shifted its foreign policy position from one of special association with the US to one of special association with the third world. It began treating Moscow and Washington ''evenhandedly.''

Washington diplomacy worked persistently through the year at a project aimed at reducing the Soviet position in Angola. There are still some 25,000 Cuban troops serving with Soviet ''advisers'' in Angola. The Angola government insists it must have them to protect itself from South African raids into its southern regions. Washington was working for a four-cornered deal under which Cuban troops in Angola would be reduced, and ultimately withdrawn, provided South Africa would grant independence to Namibia (former German South-West Africa) and cease from supporting Angola dissidents in southern Angola.

War in the Falklands caused a recasting of the British defense budget. Navy estimates went well up. Britain will retain aircraft carriers in its fleet and begin to build a ''rapid deployment force'' - a modest version of the force the US is building for possible emergency use in such places as the Middle East.

At year's end Moscow and Washington were both showing signs of serious interest in a renewed search for limits on strategic weapons and for new rules to limit theater nuclear weapons in Europe.

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