Government defense specialists in Western Europe believe that the Polish military strategy in taking over the country this week was begun six or eight weeks ago when hundreds, or possibly even thousands, of small commando-like teams were formed and sent into the countryside.
These groups were usually headed by an officer and included a senior noncommissioned officer and 6 to 12 soldiers. Their job was to position themselves visibly in village squares or city neighborhoods to establish the idea that the Army was interested in seeing that the wishes of the government were carried out. In addition, they were apparently under general orders that allowed them to intervene if matters such as local administration, food distribution or access to hospitals were not being handled correctly.
Finally, they were there to acquaint themselves with the area itself: who was who, how things worked, who the local members of Solidarity were, who the church activists were and how the local Communist Party functioned.
While such knowledge may have been superficial, the specialists say it is enough to form a good basis for a military and police operation. An estimated 35,000 to 45,000 troops were involved in these small-unit operations and they are believed to have formed the initial force that imposed nationwide martial law on the country during the darkness Sunday morning.
Despite the apparently well-thought-out strategy for the imposition of martial law, European analysts believe that the strategy was a contingency plan and did not imply that the prime minister, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, now head of the military government, had made a decision to use force well before he actually gave the order.
The Polish Army had been brought to a higher state of readiness in the past 18 months because of numerous field and command and control exercises that were carried out with Soviet and other Warsaw Pact forces as the tension in Poland continued to mount during that period.
The specialists say, however, that the bulk of that Warsaw Pact training centered on non-Polish forces because it would have been Russian troops and perhaps others from East Germany and Czechoslovakia that would have been used if there was need for a Soviet-led military intervention.
Nevertheless, the kind of exercises that the Polish Army did focus most attention on -- namely the ability to command, control and communicate with headquarters and forces around the country -- was precisely the kind of capability that was necessary for an effective imposition of martial law.
The chief of all the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact forces, Soviet Marshal Viktor Kulikov, was in Warsaw a few days before the crackdown began and is thought to have remained there at least until Dec. 15, three days after the action began.
Jaruzelski retains the title of defense minister that he held before becoming prime minister in the previous government and is now also commander-in-chief of Polish forces. As such, he is, in effect, a deputy to Kulikov under the Warsaw Pact command structure.
While it is assumed in the West that Kulikov was somehow involved in blessing the operation, the strategy and the decision to launch the crackdown were Jaruzelski's, undoubtedly subject to top Kremlin approval, Western officials believe.
Western specialists, looking back over events since the military takeover, say they believe the formation of commando teams was the key strategic organizational move made by the authorities under Gen. Jaruzelski, to prepare for a day when a military takeover might be required to keep the country from unraveling into civil war.
The teams, one specialist explained, were probably meant to bolster civilian authority and control it from the outside, without actually taking responsibility for administering the neighborhood or village. In essence, however, formation of the teams laid the groundwork for the eventual taking of physical control if necessary.
Most of the troops used in these teams reportedly were from the so-called territorial defense forces, which come under control of the Army, plus some regular Army troops.
Since the crackdown over the weekend, the original forces have been reinforced by other territorial defense forces. Western analysts now estimate that 80,000 to 90,000 troops are involved, although it is impossible, they say, to be sure of the totals, which could be much higher.
The specialists say there are still large parts of the country about which there is no information coming to the West.
Western publications estimate the Polish Army at about 220,000 regular troops, with 95,000 more in a paramilitary force of territorial defense, internal and border security. It is these forces that are said to make up the bulk of the force being used so far, along with members of an extremely large 350,000-member police force