Excerpts from the Washington Post interview with Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr.:
Q: In your judgment are the events in Poland likely to bring a turn in the East-West equation that is going to change the flow of power in the world, or is this going to be an event of limited consequences? Is this going to be a big one?
A: I think it depends on a number of still yet to be determined events in their own sense. First, the manner in which the U.S. and the western world deals with the issue, the sensitivity of the Soviet Union as it applies to the historic aspects of the issue. And a number of uncertainties in Poland itself.
There's been a recent attempt to portray the situation in Poland as already resolved. I think that's a misreading of the character of the interim situation for the reasons which I've outlined and because of the depth and breadth of the political evolution that's already occurred . . . .
Martial law is not necessarily succeeding. In fact, there is much evidence to suggest the contrary. Passive resistance, in my view, will continue. And it will be aggravated by the consequences of economic stagnation and social-economic privation.
Many have concluded prematurely, in my view, that Soviet intervention is less likely rather than more likely. I think it's much too early to draw that conclusion.
Q: Do you think Soviet intervention is still a large chance coming out of this whole situation?
A: I don't like to use large chance but I think it may even be more possible than before these events occurred.
Q: Why would that be?
A: Martial law has not succeeded and it would be premature to suggest that it had. And once the decision was made to institute repression, the prospects of applying what is necessary to achieve that outcome are stronger rather than weaker.
Q: By that you mean having to have some outside force come in and back it up?
A: Once you make a decision to take overt action internally or externally--and that decision has clearly been made, either in response to Soviet pressure or as a decision made in Moscow--then the calculus in the factors that go into future decisions is already shaded by that.
Q: A moment ago you referred to the situation in Poland as a response to Soviet pressure or a plan imposed and made in Moscow. Which of those do you now think it was?
A: There's one school of thought that what we are witnessing is the act of a patriotic nationalist who is seeking to preempt the justification for Soviet intervention. There's another school of thought that what we are witnessing is merely the response of a Soviet proxy who seeks to establish a status quo ante the August, 1980, situation, and refurbish democratic centralism.
I think either of these extremes is a misreading, and the truth is somewhere between the two, but probably closer to the latter.
And in many respects it's an irrelevant question, as I've pointed out, because consequences and outcomes are what we must be concerned about. But if you accept in extremis, either of these premises, your whole approach to dealing with the crisis will be skewed in accordance with those assumptions. And I think we have to avoid that until clearer evidence is at hand which might change the assumption that I have outlined, somewhere in between.
Q: If you accept that it's Soviet proxy then it seems to me inevitably there's not much room for change in the situation. That's the one side of it. Right?
A: That's right.
Q: And if you accept that it's a nationalist patriotic act to ward off the Russians . . .then you end up supporting it, I suppose.
A: Then you would take the track that some elements in the United States and some elements in Europe have suggested, and that is we should be supportive of the return to law and order and the suppression of the excesses of Solidarity.
Now if you're inclined to lean toward the other, devil theory I call it, even then, there's much evidence to challenge that theory in its extreme articulation, and I would say an assessment of events over the last 18 months would put that theory in doubt.
For 18 months, for whatever reason, both the Polish government and the party, which has now been supplanted by a military junta, felt constrained not to face a showdown . . . .
And secondly the Soviet Union--despite major steps to intimidate, coerce, threaten, through military maneuvers, strident warnings from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in party channels, major military exercises whose only purpose has been intimidation and threat--did not want to cross the threshold of intervention.
. . . There's no reason to believe that these restraints on suppression which have been so strenuous over the last 18 months have suddenly disappeared simply because an internal repression replete with ambiguities has been launched.
I've made the point that it's our responsibility that whatever theory you proceed from, we do the best we can to optimize the leverage for consistency with the provisions of the Helsinki accord . . . for reconciliation, for compromise with the forces who have achieved a greater influence in the Polish society . . . .
Q: Any response yet directly from the Polish government or from the Russians for that matter, from the president's actions?
A: We've had a speech yesterday by Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski in public, which one can speculate was delayed in the light of the announced speech by the president. The Jaruzelski speech was extremely moderate in tone but devoid of specific assurances that the martial law proclamation itself--which was also moderate in tone and steely in character--was in the process of revision.
Q: His negotiations with the church, have they seemed to speed up or do anything that indicates an effect of outside interest in reconciliation?
A: I would say the tactics in the internal dynamics suggests that it is still a possibility.
Q: The other night the president mentioned that the martial law proclamations were printed in Moscow in September. Does that suggest that the U.S. government believes that this was made in Moscow in September? What are the implications of that piece of information?
A: The implications of it are that one must not give unusual weight to the theory that it was the excesses of Solidarity during the months of October and December which triggered the clampdown.
It doesn't mean that those events did not decide the specific timing, or at least have an influence on the timing, because they both further challenged the limits of toleration of the party, the military elite and the Soviet Union and they also tended to erode to some degree nonunion support for active resistance.
But to assume that it was the fundamental cause for the decision to repress is belied by the fact that the planning had been so extended in character, ran up against the objective reality of the Soviet pressures that have been applied over an extended period and the clear evidence that Soviet patience had run its course.
European experts said to me some time ago, months ago, that any one of three thresholds might prove to be a triggering mechanism for a clampdown either internal or Soviet, external. Both run through party control. First was civil war, a collapse of law and order. Second was a truly independent trade union movement. And the third was a challenge to political party authority. Two of those three thresholds for all intents and purposes have been exceeded months ago. . . the second and third.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what about our NATO allies? Are you going to be able to get together with them on something that resembles a concerted approach to this thing in the near future?
A: I think it's important that we do all within our power to maintain the optimum degree of western unity in our approach to this problem. After all, it's important to remember that the events in Poland are of historic significance, both in their own right and because of the issues at stake internally, but also they have a fundamental effect on the broadest issues surrounding East-West relations and future international dynamics.
It has been in recent years, I would say, four or five years, a major objective of the Soviet Union to split Western Europe, especially West Germany, from the Atlantic community of nations, the alliance. This has been the underpinning of their peace offensive, their approach to arms control and the precedence they've given it in East-West relations.
And there've been many irritants to the traditional unity between the United States and its western partners. That unity was sorely tested in Vietnam where Europeans viewed us as being caught up in a myopic preoccupation with events in Southeast Asia at their expense. In the initial days of detente the Europeans viewed us as flirting with a Washington-Moscow condominium which was also being conducted at their expense.
In the period of the last administration U.S. failure to respond effectively to global challenges in unprecedented areas of confrontation--Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia--further fed this European concern. And economic and peaceful nuclear policies raised doubts in European capitals.
That was in the year just past aggravated again by a shift in American policies which now suddenly appeared to put in jeopardy detente. And all against a grievous economic climate which in its own right tends to feed nationalistic concerns.
The American president has to recognize that the United States remains the leader of the western world and therefore in most respects he must be the pacesetter.
On the other hand, if that pacesetting is dominated by unilateral considerations it could have the practical consequence, against the backdrop I've just described, of forcing European leaders into a position of greater sympathy with Moscow than with the United States on this issue.
Q: What do you think the chances are for bringing about a unified approach towards the situation in Poland?
A: I think the Europeans correctly feel as much concern about the events in Poland as do we. After all, they're even more intimately and immediately exposed to the consequences of these events. Some have differing perspectives as to causal factors and in synthesizing those causal factors they come to somewhat less impatient outlooks.
In general I find them, however, at one with us, very much with us, in their assessments of the significance of the events in Poland. They are pluralistic societies, as are we. They must be sensitive and responsive to popular pressures. These pressures are growing in Western Europe. As they are here in the United States.