Q: Here we are on the second anniversary of the founding of Solidarity. Just what are we dealing with now? A slogan, a dream faded, a hopeless situation, a repeat of the frustration and paralysis that has befallen Poland so long, or something more lasting and real?
A: The answer pertains to the central question of our time, namely, is the future of modern civilized man that described in Orwell's "1984" or is it a more pluralist, cooperative, self-governing society? I deeply believe that Solidarity is not just a slogan reminding us of a very dramatic and colorful period of recent Polish history, but an indicator that the basic propensity of modern man is toward genuine self-government, toward a more complex society based on consensus.
This is why, ultimately, I'm historically an optimist. This is why I believe that the Soviet-type system is doomed to collapse because it genuinely does not reflect the deepest philosophical and psychological requirements of the human being.
Q: But before such an ideal comes to be realized, a great deal of human frustration and suffering can take place. Is that what we're seeing?
A: Indeed, and I'm afraid that in the short run the situation in Poland is not going to improve. I think that the present conditions in Poland are those of a political stalemate on top of an increasingly catastrophic economic situation.
Q: What is the stalemate? Who or what is stalemated?
A: I think the situation in Poland is stalemated because of the interaction of three stalemates. The first is that within Poland itself there is paralysis between the different contending forces, namely the communist party elite, the church and that part of politically active society which Solidarity represented. And there is also by and large mediocrity at the upper levels of the political system. This mediocrity prevents a longer-range recognition of the need for national reconciliation to get Polish society going again.
Q: A stalemate which precludes not only progress but which precludes also an explosion, violence?
A: No. A stalemate which precludes progress based on a grand reconciliation between the government, the church and society designed to establish national consensus. A stalemate which also inhibits the regime from unilaterally engaging in a massive suppression of the old Stalinist type.
An explosion, however, is not to be precluded because the economic conditions in the country are becoming so severe and so unacceptable that some spark, indeed, even on the day in which this interview appears, could set off a major explosion, something which no one can predict specifically.
Q: This stalemate you suggest goes beyond the internal situation in Poland?
A: Yes, I think the stalemate in Poland is unfortunately reinforced by two other stalemates which are external to Poland. The first is that the Soviet leadership is old, in the midst of an intense covert bureaucratic struggle for succession in a regime which is highly bureaucratized and increasingly reactionary and thus incapable of seeing the Polish situation in the larger and more constructive international perspective.
If the Soviet leaders were capable of recognizing that a Poland, whose political system would be like that of Finland, would be a far greater guarantor of stability and security in the East, then such a Soviet leadership would be willing to countenance a program of reform in Poland. But the Soviet leaders aren't capable of perceiving that.
Q: How can anyone who is familiar with Polish history expect that the Soviet government is going to see its own interests in that light?
A: Because the present territorial arrangements in Europe, in particular the Oder-Neisse line, require Polish-Russian cooperation to a degree which in the past was not needed. This is something that most Poles in Poland recognize, including those who are staunchly anti- communist and very much against the present police system. It is the Soviet failure to see this new reality and to capitalize on it that is maintaining an unnecessarily suppressive and potentially explosive situation in Poland.
Q: You are saying that the Soviets lack a sharp strategic sense?
A: In that respect they fail to perceive a real historic opportunity to structure the Polish-Soviet relationship on a new and genuinely enduring basis. Because of the Oder-Neisse frontier, there happens to be a genuine coalescence of national interest between Poland and Russia in containing the old German "Drang nach Osten." This coalescence could be exploited in a much more permissive context.
Q: What about the third stalemate?
A: The third stalemate is the lack of political imagination and initiative on the part of the West. The fact is that we have neither a policy of sufficiently punitive sanctions to make the Soviets feel the pinch nor a policy offering a constructive carrot to the Soviets and to the regime in Poland for moving in a more positive direction. I believe that by now we should have formulated, on the basis of a collective Western initiative, a proposal to give the Poles substantial economic assistance, accompanied by some proposal designed to thin out the military confrontation in Europe in order to make the Soviet leaders consider the potentially beneficial consequences of a constructive resolution in Poland. Yet the West seems incapable offdevising such a larger and more comprehensive strategy.
Q: It might be said that President Reagan has offered a collective Western initiative on sanctions but has had pretty rough going.
A: That is absolutely right. He has offered a collective Western initiative on sanctions, but he hasn't been able to translate it into diplomacy, and he has not matched it by any effort to formulate with our allies a positive counterpart to a punitive policy.
I believe that a positive counterpart, the carrot, so to speak, would attract our allies and in that sense would help to fortify Western unity. At the same time, we would give Moscow and Warsaw the opportunity of contemplating the positive consequences of a change of course on their part.
Q: The carrot gets offered to Poland, to the Soviet Union?
A: To both. It seems to me that a combination of a substantial long-term economic recovery program for Poland subject to IMF controls together with some significant effort to alter the military confrontation in Central Europe would have attraction both for Warsaw and for Moscow. I favor, for example, a proposal to significantly reduce the number of American nuclear weapons in Western Europe in return for a thinout of Soviet tank forces, and to do so outside the MBFR-SALT context so as to cut through all of the complexities of the bargaining process and to dramatize the political impact of such an initiative.
Q: You want from this administration a Europe-centered policy in respect to the Soviet Union? You want this administration to divorce Europe from its global outlook?
A: No, I don't put it that way, I want from this administration an East-West strategy which exploits the constructive opportunities that Poland offers and which counteracts against the explosively dangerous potential of the Polish situation.
Q: Can Reagan do it?
A: He's our president and therefore I pray that he can.