In times like these, the big office in the Kremlin can be a lonely place. The grave responsibilities that fall on the leader of the whole Marxist-Leninist world set him apart, and today, as the inscrutable Poles continue to behave so boorishly, Leonid I. Brezhnev, general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and president of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., is a man alone.
One sees Tass releasing dramatic photographs of the great man pensively walking his hound in Gorky Park or framed in a Kremlin doorway, enhaloed by gentle light, brooding over the fiend Walesa and the Polish trade unionists. For Brezhnev to be up against the workingman is irony indeed. After all, he is honored as a hero of socialist labor almost annually.
As things continue to smolder for his Marxist-Leninist custodians in Warsaw, does Brezhnev spend whole nights on his knees beseeching Divine guidance as did, according to legend, our own President William McKinley before ending the Philippine Revolt of 1899? Doubtless there are Americans who find such loon speculations plausible. Think of Cyrus Vance. When he was secretary of state, he notified us that Brezhnev and President Carter shared "similar dreams of aspirations about the most fundamental issues."
This temptation to empathize chummily with our Soviet friends is almost a genetic defect in American statesmen. Just last week, Sen. Charles Percy returned from a series of meetings in Moscow where he, like so many Yankee pols before him, presented himself as a hail-fellow-well-met to the agape Russians. Naturally, he got into several "dreams-and-aspirations" palavers, the most memorable being with Defense Minister Dimitri Ustinov, "Conqueror of Afghanistan" and a Politburo member in good standing. According to my spies, the senator was overflowing with talk about future generations of Ustinovs and Percys living in mellow harmony. The Russians love to indulge in these sentimental orgies about future generations. But without garrulous American pols who have yet to hear the clanking of hostile Russian tanks, the Soviets' opportunities to blubber would be sadly diminished. Still, what of Poland?
Well, as Percy was ingratiating himself to our Soviet friends, Defense Minister Ustinov was seeing to it that Russian armor was greased and oiled. The Polish border was about to be sealed off in the west by the East Germans and in the east by the Russians. The Polish government received warnings against unruliness from East Germany, and soon the Russians chimed in. Forty-one years ago, the Germans and the Russians addressed the Poles in similar terms, and in time Winston Churchill broadcast to the world that "Poland has again been overrun by two of the Great Powers which held her in bondage for 150 years, but were unable to quench the spirit of the Polish nation. The heroic defense of Warsaw shows that the soul of Poland is indestructible, and that she will rise again like a rock, which may for a time be submerged by a tidal wave, but which remains a rock."
Is the Polish rock again to be submerged? How many Germans will escort the Russians from the west? How many Russians will come in from the east? Surely it is questions of this sort that now engage Brezhnev. Will he need 30 divisions? The Poles, let us remember, have been gathering clubs and chains for months. They are not to be taken lightly. And which country will the Soviet soldiers be told they are liberating? Israel? Czechoslovakia? Chile? During the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, some Soviet troops thought they were headed for Egypt. Perhaps this time they will think they are headed for Chicago, Ill., where there are a lot of angry Poles.
This is something Brezhnev ought to ponder. After four years of McGovernites in high places, the United States admittedly is not the military counterweight it once was, but the American citizenry's old vigilance and pride have returned. It would be best for the Kremlin to give Americans time to cool off.
Continuing to harass Poland is only going to make Americans generous toward the Pentagon, something the Soviets want to avoid. Moreover, an invasion will certainly provoke a tightly coordinated worldwide effort to isolate Moscow, another of the things the Soviets want to avoid. Imagine their problems if no Soviet goods could be moved outside their realm. No goods could enter. Soviet ships and planes would be left unattended, no bank drafts honored, no Telexes, nothing. The Kremlin could be lonelier still.