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

The so-called new trade union legislation under which this contrary and backward step has been taken claims to substitute a structure and framework for the establishment of free trade unions in Poland. But the free world can see this is only a sham. It is clear that such unions, if formed, will be mere extensions of the Polish Communist Party.

The Polish military leaders and their Soviet backers have shown that they will continue to trample upon the hopes and aspirations of the majority of the Polish people. America cannot stand idly by in the face of these latest threats of repression and acts of repression by the Polish Government.

[lists U.S. economic actions] . . . The flame of freedom burns . . . brightly and intensely in the hearts of Polish men and women. . . .

Until Warsaw’s military authorities move to restore Solidarity to its rightful and hard-won place in Polish society, Poland will continue to be plagued by bitterness, alienation, instability, and stagnation.

[Free by Divine Right. Let Poland be Poland] Someone has said that when anyone is denied freedom, then freedom for everyone is threatened. The struggle in the world today for the hearts and minds of mankind is based on one simple question: Is man born to be free, or slave? In country after country, people have long known the answer to that question. We are free by divine right. We are the masters of our fate, and we create governments for our convenience. Those who would have it otherwise commit a crime and a sin against God and man.

There can be only one path out of the current morass in Poland. . . . Release Lech Walesa and his colleagues . . . and begin again the search for social peace through the arduous but real process of dialogue and reconciliation with the Church and Solidarity.

I join with my countrymen . . . in praying for an early return to a path of moderation and personal freedom. . . . Let Poland be Poland. God bless you. (headings added)20

White House Statement—October 1982. A Statement by Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Situation in Poland on October 13, 1982 is a brief statement issued on behalf of the President noting “this sad anniversary of 10 months of martial law in Poland,” and concluding with the words: “Clearly the workers are expressing their will and determination to have a say in their own future, particularly in the wake of the Government’s de-legalization of an organization which had represented the vast majority of all Polish workers.”21

NSPG 46—November 1982. Probably in anticipation of the NSC meeting a week later (reviewed below) Reagan met with his senior planning group in NSPG 46—Poland, Latin America on November 2, 1982. The title of this meeting has been declassified, but the notes have not.

NSC Meeting—November 1982. NSC 65—East-West Trade and Poland-related Sanctions on November 9, 1982 involves an intricate discussion of an options paper (with four policy approaches) not attached to the redacted meeting notes. The discussion centers on the issues of gaining a unified U.S.-Allied policy on trade, related restrictions, and sanctions on Poland, and briefly, on the sanctions set in 1978 on Afghanistan and others set on Poland in 1981. Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldridge speaks in support of a general lifting of sanctions, while others seek to protect bans on high-technology sales and transfers. Discussion follows on which U.S. Allies would support and implement restrictions, as well as what businesses would try to circumvent these serious steps. Further discussion was set over the next days with the Allies on a “non-paper,” and on November 29, 1982, Reagan signed the revised NSDD 66 reviewed below.

White House Statement—November 1982. The White House Statement on the Second Anniversary of Solidarity, dated November 10, 1982 and issued on Reagan’s behalf, strongly argues the case for freedom.

[Solidarity’s Recognition Unprecedented in Soviet History] Today marks the second anniversary of an important milestone in mankind’s age-long struggle for freedom. In November 1980, for the first time since 1917, a Communist government was compelled to grant formal recognition to a free trade union, Solidarity. This unprecedented step was brought about by a nonviolent revolution of millions of Polish workers who could no longer tolerate coercion and mismanagement.

[Official Recognition was Tactical] Many hoped that this event would open a new chapter in the evolution of Communist regimes; that it demonstrated they have finally recognized there are limits to the use of force against one’s own people and that cooperation is preferable to repression. Unfortunately, as we now know, the official recognition of Solidarity 2 years ago was merely a tactical move to gain time on the part of the panic-stricken Communist authorities.

[Book pg. 471]