Chapter 19 - Taking on Soviet Imperialism in Poland and Eastern Europe


Ronald Reagan’s revolutionary Cold War strategy of peace and freedom through strength included unprecedented U.S. support for Poland’s and Eastern European resistance to the Soviet Union’s Communist totalitarian ideology and imperial aggression.

Russian and Soviet Imperialism in Poland and Eastern Europe. For centuries, Poland had been invaded, divided, occupied and betrayed by Russia. In the Soviet era, such actions against the Polish people included Lenin’s invasion of Poland in 1920 (defeated by the Poles) and the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939 followed by the joint German-Soviet invasion of Poland. The Soviet Red Army was then twice ordered by Stalin to stand by near Warsaw, first as Nazi forces bombed Warsaw in 1939 and second during the anti-Nazi Warsaw uprising in 1944. The Soviets also committed the Katyn massacre of 15,000 or more Polish Army officers who had fought the Nazis. After the Second World War, Josef Stalin forcibly Sovietized Poland in violation of Moscow’s Yalta and United Nations pledges for elections and human rights. Khrushchev in turn crushed Poland’s (and Hungary’s) anti-Soviet national uprisings in 1956 while the U.S. stood by, as it also did during the Soviet/Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Reagan’s Revolutionary Strategy. In 1981, as Ronald Reagan became U.S. president, anti-Soviet Polish freedom forces secured recognition of a newly independent Solidarity labor movement, but Poland faced martial law and a likely Soviet invasion on the basis of the imperial “Brezhnev Doctrine” applied earlier in Czechoslovakia. Reagan’s statements and actions of overt and covert support to Poland included working with the Polish Catholic Church, Solidarity (via the U.S. AFL-CIO labor union), and Pope John Paul II, whose 1979 visit to his native country and subsequent actions inspired anti-Soviet courage in Poland and throughout

[Book pg. 457]