Courtesy Reuters

Poland: FourYears After

Between August 1980 and December 1981, the Polish crisis had an important international dimension. Since the imposition of martial law on December 13, 1981, however, the political situation in Poland has drastically changed. One might argue that it is now merely the internal concern of that country or, at most, of the Soviet empire. If this be so, Poland must no longer be a matter of particular concern for American foreign policy.

This position is not shared by all commentators. Some of them continue to believe that General Wojciech Jaruzelski’s policy should be judged on moral or ideological grounds. The situation in Poland should be weighed against the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (1975), which states that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is an "essential factor for peace, justice and well-being necessary to ensure the development of friendly relations and cooperation among all states."

Others reject such a "sentimental" approach and assert Poland’s international significance on more pragmatic grounds. In particular, they emphasize the economic and geopolitical consequences of the Polish crisis. Poland owes the West billions of dollars, in itself a serious international problem. Moreover, successive crises in Central and Eastern Europe unavoidably produce East-West tension and threaten the political and military stability of the continent as a whole.

In order to argue the need for a special American foreign policy toward Poland, however, it is not enough to agree that the Polish crisis has some international relevance. One has also to agree that, despite the anti-American rhetoric and policy of General Jaruzelski and his government, the majority of Poles hope for an American influence on Poland’s destiny. But even this does not define the degree and the form required of such an influence. A definition can only emerge from a careful analysis of recent developments in Poland as well as from a reexamination of American (or generally, Western) strategic interests and options with respect to Central and Eastern Europe.


Western discussion

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