The specter haunting Europe today is not simply the fate of Poland or the fluttering of West Germany but the loosening of the two blocs. It has the look of a development that will go on regardless of what happens in this country or that. Statesmen of East and West are far from learning to live with it.
After World War II, east Europe was Sovietized, meaning conquered and colonized. Now Poland is being Polonized again and the question is whether, notwithstanding national differences, the rest of east Europe may be "Polonized," too. For the Kremlin, it is a pressing question, since it knows better than anyone of the exertions required to keep east Europe red.
After the war, a prostrate and otherwise defenseless west Europe was Americanized, meaning that American influence became predominant--and was accepted and repeatedly affirmed by the people. Now Europe is being "Francoized." On the French model, Europeans are turning toward national policies parallel with but not entirely aligned with Washington.
I say "Francoized" rather than "Finlandized," as some critics of west Europe's trending do. The latter term has come to be shorthand for preemptive surrender. It is a gross libel on the Finns. They did not cave under pressure. They lost a war, had an enormous burden forced upon them, and managed to extricate great dignity, substantial liberty and real security despite it all. How marvelous if east Europe could be "Finlandized."
As native nationalistic currents stir in both halves of Europe, in both Moscow and Washington the problems of managing an alliance become more vexing. In the circumstances, it is not surprising that the two great powers show a certain confusion in playing out their traditional postwar roles.
In Moscow the striking feature is the Politburo's relative permissiveness toward a movement with immensely unsettling implications for Kremlin vital interests. Presumably not a day passes when the Soviets do not redo the calculus of intervention, but unless and until they do intervene, their overall performance shows a welcome maturity, or indecision, or whatever.
No doubt it has occurred to them that whatever the pluses and minuses of non-intervention in the eastern part of Europe, substantial pluses may lie within reach in the western part. Continued Soviet tolerance of Solidarity and economic help to Poland will help Moscow present itself in the West as a reformed and even a safe power. The loosening tendencies already apparent in western Europe would be boosted. Eurocommunism would revive.
Washington's Polish question is much smaller and simpler than Moscow's. On the surface the administration's official policy has been strong and correct. It has done its bit for deterrence by warning Moscow of the costs of intervention, and it has moved to join the Polish bailout.
Under the surface there circulate some darker attitudes which could become important in a crunch. I would argue that the American interest lies in seeing the Poles consummate a solution of their own. This means no Soviet intervention and it means that Poles of different persuasions must compromise. But in quiet Reagan byways one hears the hint that the American interest lies in seeing the pot kept boiling, or even in seeing it boil over. The resultant difficulties for the Soviets, it is suggested, make this tempting. Anyway, who are Americans to tell Poles not to struggle in their fashion for their freedom? In a word, the anti- Yalta line.
Well, you might say, Moscow sure is doing what it can to stir the anti-NATO pot in Western Europe, under the table and on the table: fair is fair. Quite so. Poking around in the other half of Europe may have seemed routine in the past. As the blocs slip, it becomes more delicate and perhaps more dubious. Provocative in the West, vulnerable in the East, Moscow needs to be the first to get this message.