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

4. Reagan Increases Diplomatic and Economic Pressure: NSC Discussions and Directives, Reagan Public Statements, and Freedom Speeches—1982

In Poland, as in other areas of Cold War conflict, U.S.-Soviet confrontations increased in Reagan’s second year in office. Reagan built on the freedom strategy foundations he set during his campaign and first year as he continued to pursue a mixture of principled freedom ideals and diplomatic realism. In ways that the Soviet leaders had not expected; his policy encouraged Polish resistance and made substantial inroads in rolling back Soviet authority, confidence and imperial momentum.

NSC Meeting—January 1982. NSC 36—Poland on January 5, 1982 reviews the situation in Poland; Reagan correspondence with Polish leader Jaruzelski and Soviet leader Brezhnev; consultations with the Allies; and a list of current and potential U.S. actions. A special focus was on whether to cancel a $300 million sale to Poland by the U.S. company International Harvester (IH) to build a modern factory in Poland to manufacture advanced agricultural combines. The sale had been approved before the imposition of martial law, but in the view of the Department of Defense—although not the Department of Commerce (Baldridge)—the factory had dual-purpose applications for Soviet military capabilities and should not be permitted. Arguments that other nations could sell similar combines and that IH was almost insolvent carried the day with Reagan in approving the sale. The Allies, particularly West Germany, are portrayed as reluctant to impose sanctions. In Poland, the Catholic Church and Walesa are described as staying tough in pressing for the release of all Solidarity leaders.

NSC Study Directive on “Differentiation”—March 1982. The Reagan Administration inherited a U.S. policy of “differentiation” toward East European countries. A National Security Study Directive, NSSD 5–82—U.S. Policy Toward Eastern Europe issued on March 25, 1982, sets terms of reference for a review of this policy (due by April 30):

to determine whether or not the United States should differentiate in its policies between the countries of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union on the one hand, and among the diverse countries of Eastern Europe on the other [and if so] . . . to what end such a policy is to be pursued and by means of which instrumentalities. . . .

[The Long-term Policy Choice] . . . Is it to maintain regional stability in order to prevent the area from turning into a potential fulcrum of East-West confrontation, or is it to encourage processes which, in time, may loosen Moscow’s hold on the region and lead to its reintegration into the European community. . . .

[The Concept of “differentiation”] . . . Criteria to be employed in determining preferential treatment. . . .

     - Relative independence from the Soviet Union in the conduct of foreign policy. . . .

     - Relative internal liberalization . . . to observe internationally recognized human rights and a degree of pluralism and decentralization in the political and economic spheres.

[Other sections] include the Balance Sheet of “differentiation;” Instruments for Implementing Differentiation (economic, cultural, political); Allied cooperation, and Regional aspects. (headings added)12

Reagan Statement on Labor Day—May 1982. Reagan’s Statement on the Situation in Poland on May 1, 1982 reflected on the contradictory U.S. and Soviet treatments of Labor Day, law, and labor unions. Excerpts follow:

May 1 is celebrated as Labor Day in many parts of the world, although this celebration originated in the United States, recently the Communist world has paid it special attention. This takes on ironic significance in the wake of the brutal actions by Polish authorities to crush Solidarity, the only free trade union in a Communist country. . . .

On December 23, we imposed a broad range of economic sanctions against Warsaw in response to the government’s declaration of martial law. We made it clear that these sanctions are reversible, if and when Polish authorities restore the internationally recognized rights of the Polish people. When that happens, we stand ready to provide assistance to help in Poland’s economic recovery.

. . . By their own count, over 2,000 citizens, including Lech Walesa, are still imprisoned. I would like to lift our sanctions and help Poland, but not until the Polish Government has ended martial law, released the detainees, and reopened a genuine dialogue with Solidarity, led by Lech Walesa.

So on this day, Law Day in the United States, when we commemorate our principles of liberty and individual rights, we reflect upon the Polish people’s lack of such freedoms and upon their struggle to gain them.13

[Book pg. 468]