A Cardboard Castle? An Inside History of the Warsaw Pact, 1955-1991

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 90: The Soviet Military's Attempts
to Gain Polish Leadership Cooperation to End the
Polish Crisis, January–April 1981

The first document below is a letter from East German Defense Minister Heinz Hoff- mann to SED leader Erich Honecker reporting on a telephone conversation Hoffmann had with Warsaw Pact Supreme Commander Viktor Kulikov. During that convers- ation, Kulikov described the Soviet military's position on Poland at the time. Moscow was still interested in staging maneuvers on Polish territory to get rid of Solidarity but wanted to do so by involving rather than ignoring the Polish army. Kulikov had there- fore been trying to persuade Kania and Jaruzelski to hold joint exercises, and to include East German participation, but the Poles were evasive and held out instead for com- mand post exercises of military staffs that would not involve large numbers of troops or fleets. Kania's evasiveness would cost him his post later in the year.

The second document is an East German report about a Warsaw Pact Military Council meeting in Sofia at which Marshal Viktor Kulikov related his ongoing efforts to work with the Polish leadership to stamp out the Solidarity opposition. A month after the Bydgoszcz crisis8, the public outcry caused by that event still has the Polish party and military on the defensive. Kania and Jaruzelski in particular, Kulikov reports, are hesitant to act assertively. Instead they have asked that the Warsaw Pact set up a special command center at the Soviet base at Legnica. Their plan is to raise the threat of a possibly imminent Soviet-led intervention and thereby strengthen their hand with Solidarity. After the Sofia meeting, according to Ryszard Kukliński, hard-line Polish General Eugeniusz Molczyk, who may have been conspiring with the Soviets, remarked to the party leadership in Warsaw that if socialism were to be defeated in Poland steps might have to be taken to keep the country in the Warsaw Pact.9This may have been a deliberate signal from the Soviets, and therefore part of a new Soviet strategy to prod the Poles into action by making them believe there was a danger of intervention when in reality the Politburo had already secretly ruled it out. Certainly by May, if not April, this was the case.

8 On March 19, 1981, communist thugs beat up Solidarity activists with police support in Bydgoszcz.

9 "Col. Ryszard Kukliński's Interview, Washington, October 28, 1997," material prepared for the conference, "Poland 1980–1982: Internal Crisis, International Dimensions," Jachranka–Warsaw, November 8–10, 1997.

-443-

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