THE PROSPECTS FOR SOVIET MILITARY INTERVENTION IN POLAND

Created: 9/8/1980

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CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY NATIONAL FOREIGN ASSESSMENT

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MEMORANDUM

FOR SOVIET MILITARY INTERVENTION IN POLAND

SUkXART

We do not think that Moscow ie now seriously considering military intervention in Poland. Although the Soviets are deeply troubled by developments there, they probably do not view the eonceoeione granted so far regarding independent trade unions ae sufficient cause for the uee of Soviet military force in Poland. The Soviets probably also do not consider these oonoeesicnevereible and will place substantial pressure on Warsaw to curtail them. Inwith Kania's replacement ofGierek ao first eecretary, their hopeo appear buoyed that the development of politicalocial chaos in Poland that might have aompelled them to use military force in the near future luxe bean foreetalled. nevertheless, Hoocow'e anxieties are still high, and if Kania doaa not limit the concessions granted the etrikaro or if he crooks down tooandiolent popular reaction which ths government cannot control, the Soviets may yet have to etep in militarily, j

Current Soviet Attitudes

The Soviets ibahaved cautiously during the Polish labor crisis. Only after the; settlement of the strikes on the Balticis, when the immediate danger of anhadthey openly begin to express their

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i anxieties. Subsequent critical commentary reflected Mosco* 'S .recognition that tho negotiated settlement with thoay have set in rtotiona process of political liberalization

!of the Polish system, Iwhich could at some point prove to be ; beyond the control ofithejPolish Communist Tarty andspread elsewhere in Eastern Europe. It alsoign of Soviet dissatisfaction with Gierek's handling of the crisis. Whether or not Moscowand in Gierek's ouster, the Soviet leadership is openly pleased with the choice of Kania as first secretary and consider him to be the best possible replacement at: this juncture, j|

It remains]to be |seen whether Kania will live up to his image as an orthodox, hardline apparatchik, who will strictly limit the gainsfniade by!,the strikers. At thelvery least, the Polish party has [bought time as far as Soviet!militaryis concerned. But if [Kania proves unable or unwilling to curtail the hew unions, the Soviets would step up first the political, then the military, pressure tactics on him tothe erosion of party control in Poland.i If theae pressures [failed, Moscow would intervene militarily.

Fundamental Threat to Party Control

The agreement reached between the strikers and the Polish regime at the end of August, if implemented liberally, would threaten the very foundations of the Communist system 'in Poland. Thejtheoretical justification of the Communist party's control is its claim to rule as.the vanguard of the yorking class. "But with' the overwhelming majority of the workers rejecting the party-run unions for unions that will truly represent jtheir interests, that justification would be-

The Soviet Union, quite clearly, would not stand by idly if this occurred. The case could even be made that [Moscow has already decided that its military intervention isthreat is so dangerous that it should be stamped out beforte it hashance to spread. I

Tho Soviets may have already decided that the Polish leadership has giVon up too much of its1 authority in agreeing to the unprecedented es*abli3hment of free trade unions and the partial lifting.of- censorship. The!Politburo may have reasoned that, as| in Czechoslovakiahe political land social conditions for continued dissipation of the party's authority! had beenhere is no reason [to believo, however, that this is the case and that the Soviets have gone, that far in theiralone Itheir contingency, planning. We bellve that the Soviet 'decision to intervene will depend on where the situation [goes from here, .nbt on! what has happened ao for.

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Even if the'Soviots had decided in favor of intervention' and there have been no signs of Soviet military preparations that would precede such aaccession toould call for a'delay in plans. If Kania can erode the concessions and restore the Polish party's shaken authority, thus obviating the need for Soviet military intervention, Moscow would bet would much rather achieve its goals without suffering the substantial damage to Soviet global interests)military intervention would bring.

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ossiblef ^Intervention

The Soviets!nevertheless realize that the situation in Poland will continue to be unpredictable and unstable for he immediate future and that they must monitor events Closoly during the coming months for any signs that their concerns are materialising. apid breakdown of tho Folish

party's control does not appear imminent, but should it

Occur, the Soviets would move in quickly with force. ] |

The essential grounds for Soviet militaryoland arei

--the Communist Party's loss of control over Poland, including its ability to contain the political actions of the workers and the dissidents, and

compromise of the basic socialist orientation of the regime's domestic and international policies

The path to either or both of theso worst case scenarios (from Moscow's point of view) could be lengthy and full of zig-zags. An accumulation of seemingly minute; factors could convince the Soviet leaders to intervene. Wo will not necessarily realize when the Soviets, themselves, actually -ross that decision threshold to intervene but once they do there may not be]any turning back even if lt appears to Western analysts that the Polish regime is getting the situation under control.;

Moscow will, keep an especially sharp eye on theof the new independent trade unions, whichotential serious threat to the Communist Party's control over Polish fociety. Moscow would ba particularly concerned if unions spring' up across the country, cohere into a

potent politicaljnd influence national economicspecially trade with tho USSR and defense

spending. In the wake of Cardinal Wyszynakl's meeting with Lech Walesa, the Soviets will be "specially aensitivo to any signs that the unions aro developing meaningful alliances with the Catholic church or political dissidents, receiving

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substantial aid from unions and other organizations in the West, or adopting openly hostile attitudes and policies [toward the Soviet;oviet media are already attacking assistance provided to the independent unions from Western [trade unions.

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The relaxation of censorship is another issue that the vieta will find' difficult to live withj Although the mledia restriction's! the Gierek regime pledged to lift are inimal when compared to [the near total abolition ofagreed to by? the Dubcek regime in Czechoslovakiahis issue was one of the primary Soviet complaints to

the Czechoslovak party in<tho months before the invasion.

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Although,it appears unlikely at the moment, theexists that the presentuture Polishout of fear of therackdownorenuine sympathy with the workers'assume the lead in the liberalization process andmuchhis couldituationCzechoslovakia' Soviet party officialsthat there are trends evident in

Polishthose present in Czechoslovakia

during the Prague Spring. If Moscow perceived these trends ih the Polish party leadership, it might feel compelled to take preventive action before the process reached an unmanageable stage;

An opposite course!by tnc Polishcrackdown oh the unions and, allprobably more in line with the desires of the Soviet leaders, couldlead to] Soviet intervention. If the workers responded to this tightening by resuming itheir strikes, there wouldtrong likelihood of viOlent confrontationif it got out of!the Polish authorities' control, could trigger the use of Soviet force.

Another development that would profoundlyerious outbreak of labor unrest elsewhereEurope or in the USSR. Unrest appears unlikelyUSSR at the moment, but the reports of strikes atplants in Tolgiatti and Gorkiy earlier thisto give the Kremlin pause. Strikes and/or callstrade unions! in other East European countriesthe Soviets [to step up theiron thoto curtail the new unions.

variables will interactomplex, protracted

process, the specific developments of which cannot be predicted

with any certainty; Moscow's perception of this process may

be quite Different frcm ours or the Poles'. No one of these

factors is likely] to develop by itself. ombination

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of developments cbulu suggest to Moscowrend toward liberalization was approaching the foint of irreversibility, that Soviet vital;interests were at stake and that the situation could only be pur. right by military intervention.

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A Decision to Intervene

Once the Soviet threshold of tolerance is crossed, Moscow would take direct action. Tho Soviets would first demand that the Polish leadership contain the liberalization process. If Warsaw either refused or was unable to bring the situation under control, the Soviets might opt for still another change in leadership, believing thatore hardline group couldtop to the erosion of power.

Past experience suggests that the Kremlin would resort to political and military pressure to get the Poles themselves to bring the situation under control before sending in troops. This would probably include high-level visits between Moscow and Warsaw, increasingly explicit warnings in the Soviet press, and possibly threatening military movements. Several factors probably would be atope that the Poles would back down when facedisplay of overwhelming force. The absence of unanimity within the Soviet Politburo could alsoital factor, it would be no easy matter to get the entireperhapsignificantagree that armed intervention was the only way to hold the Poles in line. This certainly seems to have been the casehen Kosygin, Suslov and others reportedly held out to the last nt in opposing the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

The Soviet leaders, inecision to use military force, would have to weigh the constraints, which are substantial. They must assume that:

ths strongly anti-Russian Polish people would fight, as might part or all of the Polish Army.

submission would require the largest military operation by tho Soviet armed forcea sine* World War II and would involve protracted combat.

effort Jto salvage detente in one of its

mostetback from which it wouldong time recovering.

would probablyubstantial long-term occupation that would complicate Soviet security planning in both Europe and Asia.

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! In the final analysis, however, the Soviot leadersto bear these enormous costs rather than lose:H't:||

Poland lies astride the traditional invasion routes jto and from Russia and isital corridor, essential to Soviet military planning.

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less politically reliable Poland would leave East Germany in an exposed position.

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Soviet' failure to act forcefully could encourage

similar unrest elsewhsre in Eastern Europe and, possibly, in the Baltic republics of the USSR as well.

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