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

Weinberger: . . . We should be taking stronger action than just wringing our hands. That (wringing our hands) is what the Soviets want. They (the Polish government) can begin meaningless negotiations with Solidarity that will please Europe. We should have a list of nine things we can do. Each is, in itself, a pin prick, but they cause anguish and pain. They evidence our seriousness. They influence public and industrial labor movements. It is morally right to take a stand—a position of leadership. (emphasis added)10

Reagan Letter to Brezhnev—December 23, 1981. Following the meetings of December 21 and 22 that included discussion of a Reagan Letter to Brezhnev—December 23, 1981, such a letter was approved by Reagan and transmitted via the Hot-Line link. It is a “must read” document for its demonstration of Reagan’s unflinching hard-line approach that calls the Soviet leader, the Communist Party, and the Soviet Union to account for their violation of international agreements and their aggressive suppression of Polish citizens’ rights. Thus:

[Brutal Assaults] Since the imposition of martial law on December 13, the most elementary rights of the Polish people have been violated daily: massive arrests without any legal procedures; incarcerations of trade union leaders and intellectuals in overcrowded jails and freezing detention camps; suspension of all rights of assembly and association; and, last but not least, brutal assaults by security forces on citizens.

[Soviet Intervention] The recent events in Poland clearly are not an “internal matter” and in writing to you, as the head of the Soviet Government, I am not misaddressing my communication. Your country has repeatedly intervened in Polish affairs during the months preceding the recent tragic events. No clearer proof of such intervention is needed than the letter of June 5, 1981, from the Central Committee of the CPSU to the Polish leadership, which warned the Poles that the Soviet Union could not tolerate developments there. There were numerous other communications of this nature which placed pressure on the Polish Government and depicted the reform movement as a threat to the ‘vital interests’ of all Socialist countries. These communications, accompanied by a steady barrage of media assaults as well as military exercises along Poland’s borders, were coupled with warnings of intervention unless the Polish Government sharply restricted the liberties and rights which it was granting its citizens.

[Helsinki Violations] All these actions represented a clear violation of many international agreements to which the Soviet Union is a signatory. Let me only mention one provision of the Helsinki Final Act which you, Mr. President, personally initialed on behalf of your country in 1975. There you have agreed with other countries to refrain “From any intervention, direct or indirect, individual or collective, in the internal or external affairs falling within the domestic jurisdiction of another participating state, regardless of their mutual relations.” . . .

[Political Terror in Poland] Since Afghanistan nothing has so outraged our public opinion as the pressures and threats which your government has exerted on Poland to stifle the stirrings of freedom. Attempts to suppress the Polish people—either by the Polish Army and police acting under Soviet pressure, or through even more direct use of Soviet military force—certainly will not bring about long-term stability in Poland and could unleash a process which neither you nor we could fully control. The only sensible solution is to allow the Polish Government and people to begin a process of reconciliation, and to do so now before the situation deteriorates further. This cannot be done in the present atmosphere of political terror, mass arrests and bloodshed. Representatives of the spiritual, political and social forces in Poland need to be promptly released from detention and a new national dialogue initiated. This is as essential to solving Poland’s major economic problems as it is to healing its political wounds. It is the sole path to long-term stability in Poland and therefore in Europe as a whole.

[The Soviet Choice] The Soviet Union can either acknowledge the need for this process or continue to prevent it. The consequences of each of these courses for our relationship should be clear. . . . Over the course of 1981, we have begun to develop a framework to guide our relations in the years to come. . . . In my last letter to you, we set forth a concrete agenda for negotiations on critical regional and arms control issues. It has been our hope and intention to proceed in 1982 to try to achieve specific progress on each item on this agenda. . . . Should the Soviet Union persist in aiding the course of continued suppression in Poland, the United States will have no choice but to take concrete measures affecting the full range of our relationship. (headings added)11

Brezhnev Letter to Reagan—December 25, 1981. Not unexpectedly, in a Brezhnev Letter to Reagan—December 25, 1981, Brezhnev resorts to standard Soviet propaganda in rejecting and chastising Reagan on each of the key points in Reagan’s letter.

[Book pg. 467]