FOLLOWING the Warsaw Pact's formal resolution to transform itself from a military to a primarily political alliance, Eastern Europe's emerging democracies are confronting how to restructure their alliances and defenses within the framework of a newly developing system of European security. ``We always wanted to see the Warsaw Pact transformed, and now it's happening,'' said Janusz Onyszkiewicz, Poland's deputy defense minister in an interview.
``The correlation of forces in Europe has changed,'' Hungarian Prime Minister Jozef Antall said after the Warsaw Pact summit in Moscow June 7. ``There is no threat at all to anyone from any side.''
Western political analysts have characterized the decisions taken at the summit as the symbolic end of 40 years of Soviet military domination of Eastern Europe.
The Warsaw Pact summit this month was the first such meeting since last year's democratic upheavals swept the East-bloc's communist regimes from power. An extraordinary summit meeting in Prague, set for no later than the end of November, will hear recommendations from a commission on ways to make the alliance into ``a treaty of sovereign states with equal rights, formed on a democratic basis.''
Hungary has already served notice it will not take part in Warsaw Pact military exercises this year and has expressed its intention eventually to leave the organization and place its forces fully under national command.
Other countries, such as Poland, are radically redefining the scope and function of their military organizations to stress purely defensive operations that would bar their soldiers from fighting on foreign soil.
Tens of thousands of Soviet troops, too, have already been pulled out of Eastern European countries.
Still, given the state of flux within their countries and in international relations, including the status of NATO, German reunification, and the status of the East German Army, most East European leaders appear to feel that the Warsaw Pact should not be abruptly dissolved altogether, at least for the time being.
``We have believed from the very beginning that there is no sense in withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact,'' Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel said after the summit. ``By withdrawing from this pact, we would lose all influence on its future fate. This kind of withdrawal would essentially be an illusion of real neutrality. We believe that Czechoslovakia can become neutral only if the whole of Europe becomes neutral.''
Interviewed in his office in Warsaw, Mr. Onyszkiewicz said, ``We think that the process of unifying Europe, changing Europe into a confederation ... or any other form of political cooperation will take time. ...
``We are not going to make changes so that the Warsaw Pact can last another 35 years, [but] we think it has some sort of time to live before it is superseded by another European security system.''
Onyszkiewicz, previously the longtime spokesman for the Solidarity trade union, said Poland was engaging in increased bilateral military cooperation and exchanges with neighboring Czechoslovakia, including looking into how to diversify military suppliers so they would not be so dependent on the Soviet Union for equipment.
Of the recent vote by the German parliaments to respect the border with Poland, Onyszkiewicz said, ``We welcome the German decision. It's not final, as this was a unilateral move, but it's a big step in the right direction.''
Onyszkiewicz said Poland supported regional political cooperation in Europe - such as recent initiatives of Adriatic and Danubian states - as building blocks toward full-scale European cooperation during this period of transition, partly to protect the interests of the emerging East European democracies.
``We do not want to see these groups of countries as something which is an alternative to wider European cooperation, but they should be seen as a sort of structure built into this wider European cooperation,'' he said.
``After all, cooperation among Benelux countries has not been detrimental to European cooperation.
``There is a certain fear in Poland, and I think in other countries as well, that Western Europe may simply try to sort of close its ranks and consolidate politically to such an extent that later it will be much more difficult to create a structure to cover all Europe,'' he said. ``We simply don't want to be left on the platform by the European express train, which will take off very soon.
``We don't want to have the situation where a European house is built for us and we are only offered a place,'' he said. ``We would like to participate in planning the construction.''
Onyszkiewicz elaborated on other problems that Polish authorities saw as an inherent part of the transition into a new pan-European security system, noting that an end to direct bloc-to-bloc confrontation would not mean an end to national security systems.
``The reaction to have an army is not because you have a very well defined enemy,'' he said. ``But nobody developed any better security system.''
Nationalism, he said, remains a key threat throughout Eastern Europe, and eventually could lead to local conflicts.
``Western Europe managed to localize these sorts of conflicts. We don't know what's going to happen in our part of the world once the straitjacket of Soviet domination is removed,'' he said. ``I don't think that we'll have a situation in which a global war in Europe would be a most likely event, but I cannot exclude small local conflicts.''