The Collapse of Socialist
So these princes of ours who had been for many years entrenched in
their states have no cause to complain of fortune because they have lost
them; . . . adversity caught them unprepared and their first thought was
of flight and not defense, hoping that their people would weary of the
insolence of the conqueror and so recall them. This is a good resource, to
be sure, when there is no other, but it is ill to neglect other remedies in
favor of such a hope, for certainly we should never be willing to fall simply
in the belief that someone will pick us up again. For this may not happen,
and if it does happen it does not help in your salvation, for it is a cowardly
kind of defense and not based on your efforts, and the only good, reliable,
and enduring defense is one that comes from yourself and your own valor
—Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
AS THE SOLIDARITY CRISIS CONTINUED INTO 1981, it became increasingly obvious that Moscow had no intention of toning down its pressure on Poland. The opposition had begun to assert itself again, this time in support of Rural Solidarity, a fully independent farmers union. Although the resulting standoff brought Defense Minister Jaruzelski to the post of prime minister in February, the general proved extremely reluctant to introduce martial law in Poland, preferring instead to seek a resolution through selective intimidation. By late March this limited resort to force once again prompted Solidarity to call for a crippling nationwide general strike.
Hence, from Moscow's vantage point, the promises of the Moscow Conference dissipated completely with the start of the new year, as Poland continued to slide, unabated, into chaos. The events of late 1980 seemed to demonstrate that the only effective check to opposition assertiveness in Poland had been the threat of a Warsaw Pact invasion. Indeed, that appeared to be the only language that Polish authorities understood as well. This conviction returned Soviet troops to the field again in late March, as Poland was poised to weather Solidarity's general strike. For the first time since the start of the crisis, Solidarity backed down without receiving any significant state concessions, calling off the proposed strike in the interest of peace. But it seemed only a matter of time before the union's more aggressive elements would choose to call the Soviet bluff. Should that day come before Warsaw imposed order with its own forces, Moscow would require a response to be in place and ready.
It was the formulation of that response by mid-1981 that characterized