Moscow Embassy Cable, If Solidarity Takes Charge, What Will the Soviets Do?
In June 1989, Poland held its first semi-free elections in which the Communist Party was overwhelmingly defeated by opposition leaders. Following the election, U.S. officials were elated about the prospects of democratization in Poland as well as concerned about the potential response from the Soviet Union. Historically, Soviet officials had taken tremendous actions in Eastern Europe, even using military force, to extinguish demonstrations and quell opposition. As a result, as this confidential cable from August 1989 by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to the U.S. secretary of state indicates, American leaders were unsure about how the Soviet Union would respond to this historic defeat of communism in Poland. The Soviets' restrained response and acceptance of the election results reflected a changing mood in the Soviet bloc, one that would eventually lead to the dismantling of communism in all of the Eastern European countries.
U.S. Embassy Moscow to U.S. Secretary of State, "If Solidarity Takes Charge, What Will The Soviets Do?," 16 August 1989, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
2. THE SOVIET RESPONSE TO THE POLISH POLITICAL CRISIS HAS BEEN RESTRAINED. OVER THE PAST WEEK, SOVIET OFFICIAL STATEMENTS ON THE POLISH CABINET CRISIS HAVE BEEN SPARING AND SOMEWHAT AMBIGUOUS. MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] SOURCES STRESS THE DOMESTIC NATURE OF THE ISSUE AND THE USSR's POLICY OF NON-INTERVENTION. SOVIET PRESS COMMENTARY HAS PRESENTED A MIXED PICTURE. STRAIGHT REPORTING OF THE UNFOLDING EVENTS IN WARSAW HAS ALTERNATED WITH HEAVY CRITICISM OF SOLIDARITY AND [Lech] WALESA [Poland's Solidarity leader] (PRAVDA, AUGUST 14), AS WELL AS MODERATE PRAISE (NOVOYE VREMYA, ISSUE NUMBER 34 ) . ONE IZVESTIYA ARTICLE HAS ALSO HIGHLIGHTED CURRENT POLISH ECONOMIC VULNERABILITIES VIS-A-VIS THE SOVIET UNION. SOVIET AND EASTERN EUROPEAN JOURNALISTS WE HAVE TALKED WITH BELIEVE THAT THE SOVIETS WILL ACQUIESCE TO A SOLIDARITY-LED GOVERNMENT. THIS OPINION IS SHARED BY THE OUTGOING POLISH AMBASSADOR.
3. ON BALANCE, WE AGREE WITH THIS ASSESSMENT, BARRING A MAJOR MISSTEP BY SOLIDARITY. IN KEEPING WITH SOVIET "NEW THINKING" IN FOREIGN POLICY, A STRONG REACTION TO POLISH EVENTS. WHETHER POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, OR MILITARY, IS SIMPLY NOT APPROPRIATE. FOR MORE OLD-LINE THINKERS, THE PROSPECT OF A SOLIDARITY TAKEOVER IS NOT SOMETHING THEY ARE COMFORTABLE THINKING ABOUT, OR COMMENTING ON. MOST OF THE LATTER APPEAR TO BE HOLDING THEIR BREATH, OR AT LEAST THEIR RHETORIC, IN HOPES THAT SOMEHOW A SOLUTION WILL BE FOUND INTERNALLY THAT WILL ALLOW THE PZPR [Communist Party in Poland] TO CONTINUE AS THE LEADING MEMBER OF THE NEXT COALITION GOVERMMENT. WHAT THE SOVIETS MOST WANT TO PROMOTE IN POLAND IS STABILITY AND WHAT THEY MOST WANT TO AVOID IS AN OUTBURST OF ANTI-SOVIET EMOTION. IF SOLIDARITY CAN DELIVER ON THESE ISSUES, THE SOVIETS UNDER GORBACHEV WILL ADAPT, ALBEIT PERHAPS WITH RELUCTANCE, TO THE NEW ORDER. END SUMMARY...