For several diplomats past and present at the Egyptian Embassy last night, what Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger has called a Soviet "invasion by osmosis" of Poland offered grim prospects.
"Very dangerous," said former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, agreeing with Weinberger's assessment, "at a minimum."
"You can't walk up and down that hill too often as the Soviets have done. I think they're going to bring massive pressure this week," said Kissinger, standing in an elegant salon of Egyptian Ambassador and Mrs. Ashraf Ghorbal before a dinner honoring Senate majority leader Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) and his wife Joy.
Nearby, in the black-tie crowd, were National Security Adviser Richard Allen, Deputy Secretary of State William Clark, the ambassadors of Sudan, Morrocco, France, Japan and Austria.
Kissinger continued in his somber vein, uncharacteristic of him in the glittering Embassy Row surroundings where his habit usually is to tease and joke rather than read international tea leaves. "You know," he said, "there are six satellite countries, and the Soviets have blackmailed, intimidated or used their armies in all of them. But they have a new principle: They use their armies only against allies," he said, a sardonic note in his voice.
Both Allen and Baker told of getting daily reports from the Reagan administration Cabinet officers shuttling abroad.
"They're very pleased with the results so far," said Allen, who had stopped by the hospital to see White House press secretary James Brady. And Allen's report from that quarter was to repeat a question he said Brady has always asked him whenever they meet: "You all right?"
Baker, who leaves later this week for Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel with a brief stopover in Spain, has the dual mission. "We're going to assess the prospects for a rejuvenation of the Camp David peace accords and also assess the situation surrounding the F-15 enhancement sale in Saudi Arabia and Israel." He called the Polish crisis "very precarious."
Ghorbal said the deepening crisis in Poland was making everyone tense, and he hoped the Soviets were paying attention to what the rest of the world was trying to tell them. "Certainly the Reagan administration is giving a very clear message," he said. During toasts the ambassador told his guests that Egypt was "happy" over the current visit of Secretary of State Alexander Haig and turning to Baker, added the Egyptians were pleased that he would be going as well.
Recalling back when he was Egypt's "man in charge of no relations" here between 1967 and 1972, Ghorbal told of pleading at times with Henry Kissinger to pay a visit. Kissinger always received him graciously and listened politely but Ghorbal said he found nothing happening.
"I recall going to see Sen. Baker and complaining that at Harvard they taught us you can have paralysis by analysis. I said to Henry, 'Can we have a move in the Middle East?' and he said, "We are analyzing the situation.'" But Ghorbal added, "Thank God, it was Henry Kissinger who in 1973 really made the tremendous move" that eventually led to the resumption of relations between Egypt and Israel.
And it was Baker, Ghorbal continued, to whom he took his case on the Hill. "He was encouraging over the efforts to bring the two countries together and to bring a settlement in the Middle East."
Things became so much better in fact, the ambassador noted, that about a year ago he went to see then-Secretary of Defense Harold Brown to talk about military assistance. "He said, 'We will give you what we are giving Israel.' I said, 'Secretary Brown, everything? Can I count on it?'"
Brown told him yes but that this time the Israelis were not getting the equipment free, that they would have to pay for it.
"I said 'I, the ambassador of Egypt, ask you to give it to the Israelis free.'"
The idea that the Egyptian ambassador would ask the Americans to give Israel military equipment was just a little ironic and everybody laughed.