10 December 1981* (Pb §2) Poland

Politburo meeting, three days before the introduction of martial law in Poland. [R 10 December 1981, Politburo, para 1] total 11 pp. (excerpts) [1]


[page one of eleven]

Top Secret
Single Copy
(Draft Minutes)

10 December 1981

chaired by

Comrades in attendance:
Yu.V. Andropov, V.V. Grishin, A.A.Gromyko,
A.P. Kirilenko, A.L. Pelshe, M.A. Suslov,
D.F. Ustinov, K.U. Chernenko, P.N. Demichev,
B.N. Ponomaryov, Solomentsev, I.V. Kapitonov,
V.I. Dolgikh, K.B. Rusakov

2. Concerning the situation in Poland



[page two]

BAIBAKOV. […] It must be said that the list of goods that they include as assistance from us to the Polish People’s Republic is made up of 350 items worth some 1.4 billion roubles. This includes such goods as 2 million tons of grain, 25,000 tons of meat, 625,000 tons of iron ore, and many other goods. Bearing in mind what we were intending to give Poland in 1982, the requests made by the Polish comrades means that our total assistance to the Polish People’s Republic will be approximately 4.4 billion roubles.

The time is now approaching for Poland to pay for its credits from West Europe an countries. To do so Poland needs at least 2.8 million hard-currency roubles. When I listened to the Polish comrades saying what they are requesting and what sum this assistance represented, I suggested that we establish our economic relations on a balanced basis. Moreover, I noted that Polish industry is not fulfilling its plan, and to a quite substantial extent. The coal industry, the country’s main source of hard currency, has been disrupted: the necessary measures are not being taken and the strikes continue. Now, when there are no strikes, the level of output remains at a very low level.

Or, for example, let’s say that the peasants have grown something, there are grain, meat products, vegetables, etc. But they aren’t giving any of it to the State; they’re just playing a waiting game. At the private markets trade is quite brisk and at very inflated prices.

I told the Polish comrades that if such a situation has arisen they must adopt more decisive measures. Perhaps they can introduce something like requisitioning of farm produce.

If we speak, for example, about grain reserves, then this year Poland has accumulated 2 million tons. The population is not going hungry. City dwellers drive to the markets and the villages, buying up all the food they need. And the food is there.


[page three]

BAIBAKOV. As you know, in accordance with a decision of the Politburo and at the request of the Polish comrades, we are providing them as aid 30,000 tons of meat. Of the 30,000 tons, 15,000 have already left the country. I should add that the produce, in this case meat, is being delivered [at the Polish end] in dirty, unsanitary rail wagons used to transport iron ore, and has a very unattractive appearance. When the produce is unloaded at Polish rail stations, blatant sabotage has been taking place. The Poles have been saying the rudest things about the Soviet Union and the Soviet people, and they are refusing to clean out the rail wagons, etc. One could not begin to list all the insults that have been directed against us.

Sensing this situation with their balance of payments, the Poles want to impose a moratorium on the payment of their debts to Western countries. If they declare a moratorium, all Polish vessels in the waters of other States or in harbour, and all other Polish property in the countries to which Poland owes debts, will be seized. For this reason the Poles have given instructions to the captains of ships to refrain from entering ports and to stay in neutral waters.


RUSAKOV. Comrade Baibakov has correctly described the situation regarding the Polish economy. What, then, should we be doing now? It seems to me that we should deliver to Poland the goods provided for under the economic agreements, but that these deliveries should not exceed the quantity of goods we delivered in the first quarter of last year.

BREZHNEV. And are we able to give this much now?

BAIBAKOV. Leonid Ilych, it can be given only by drawing on State reserves or at the expense of deliveries to the internal market.


[page four]

RUSAKOV. The day before yesterday they held a meeting of secretaries from the regional committees. As Comrade Aristov reported, the secretaries of the regional committees are baffled by Jaruzelski’s speech. He did not provide a clear, straightforward approach. No one knows what will happen over the next few days. There was talk about “Operation X”. At first, it was said it would happen during the night of 11-12 December, then during the night of 12-13 December. Now they’re already saying it will take place around 20 December. It is envisaged that Jablonski, the chairman of the State Council, will speak on radio and television and announce the introduction of martial law. Yet Jaruzelski declared that the law on the introduction of martial law can be used only after it has been considered by the Sejm, and the next session of the Sejm is scheduled for 15 December. Everything has become very complicated. The agenda of the Sejm has been published, and it makes no mention of the introduction of martial law. But in any case Solidarity is well aware that the government intends to introduce martial law and [the government] has been preparing all necessary measures to do so.

Jaruzelski himself says that he intends to address the Polish nation. In his address, however, he won’t be speaking about the party but instead he will appeal to Polish nationalist sentiments. Jaruzelski has been talking about the need to proclaim a military dictatorship, of the sort that existed under Pilsudski. He indicated that the Poles would understand this better than anything else. […]


[page five]

[…] Jaruzelski has also been referring to a speech by Comrade Kulikov, who supposedly said that the USSR and other allied States would assist Poland with their armed forces. However, as far as I know, Comrade Kulikov did not say this directly, but merely repeated the earlier words of L. I. Brezhnev that we would not leave Poland in the lurch.

If we consider what is going on in the regions it must be frankly stated that the strength of the party organizations cannot be felt there. To some extent the administrative apparatus is still functioning, but in effect all power is in the hands of Solidarity. In what Jaruzelski says, it seems, he is trying to pull the wool over our eyes, because his words do not appear to reflect a proper analysis. If they [Polish comrades] don’t quickly organize themselves, pull themselves together and act against the onslaught of Solidarity, there will be no improvement in the situation in Poland.

ANDROPOV. From conversations with Jaruzelski it is clear that they have not yet reached a firm decision about introducing martial law. Even despite the unanimous vote by the PZPR Politburo on [the necessity of] the introduction of martial law, we have not yet seen concrete measures on the part of the leadership. The extremists in Solidarity have the Polish leadership by the throat. The Church in recent days has also clearly expressed its position, and has essentially gone over to the side of “Solidarity.”

Of course in these circumstances the Polish comrades must swiftly prepare and carry out “Operation X”. Yet Jaruzelski declares that “we will resort to ‘Operation X’ when Solidarity forces us to do so.” This is a very alarming symptom, especially when the last session of the PZPR Politburo and the decision it adopted to introduce martial law, suggest that the Politburo is acting more decisively. All the members of the Politburo expressed support for resolute action. This decision pinned Jaruzelski down, and now he must find some way of extricating himself. Yesterday I spoke with Milewski and asked what measures they intended to take and when they would be taken. He told me that he didn’t know about “Operation X” or when specifically it would be carried out. It seems that Jaruzelski is either concealing a plan of specific action from his comrades or is simply avoiding the implementation of that measure.


[page six]

[In the meantime, Rusakov added, Jaruzelski had put forward “quite insistent” demands on the Soviet leadership for economic support, making implementation of “Operation X” dependent on its willingness to offer economic and, indirectly, military assistance.]

?RUSAKOV. If you look at the list of goods the Polish comrades are requesting it must be said there are serious doubts about the necessity of supplying these products. What is the connection between the success of “Operation X”, for example, and the delivery of fertilizer and certain other goods? In this context I’d like to say that our position, as formulated during the previous session of the Politburo and expressed earlier repeatedly by Leonid Ilych, is entirely correct, and we must not depart from it. In other words, we are taking a position of internationalist assistance and we are concerned by the situation that has developed in Poland. As concerns “Operation X”, however, it must wholly and entirely be a decision by the Polish comrades. Whatever they decide is what will be. We will not insist, and we will not dissuade them.

As concerns economic assistance it will, of course, be difficult for us to provide anything on the scale they have requested. Evidently, we should give something. But again I’d like to say that the way the question of supplying goods as economic assistance is being raised is insolent; it’s all being done so that later if we do not deliver something, they’ll be able to lay the blame on us.

If Comrade Kulikov really spoke about sending troops [to Poland], then I consider he did so incorrectly. We can’t risk it. We do not intend sending troops to Poland. That is the right position, and we must stick to it. I don’t know how things will turn out in Poland, but even if Poland falls under the control of Solidarity, that’s one thing. If, on the other hand, the capitalist countries turn on the Soviet Union – and they have already reached agreement on a variety of economic and political sanctions – that will be very burdensome for us. We must show concern for our own country and for the strengthening of the Soviet Union. That is our main approach. …


[page seven]

As concerns the lines of communication between the Soviet Union and the GDR that run through Poland, we must do something, of course, to ensure that they are safeguarded.

GROMYKO. Today we are having a very frank discussion of the situation in Poland. Previously we did not discuss it so openly. That’s because now we ourselves don’t know what direction the events in Poland will take. The Polish leadership itself senses that power is slipping from its grasp. Kania and Jaruzelski, as you know, were counting on the support of the uncommitted. Now that option does not exist, there are no neutrals left. The position has become quite clear: Solidarity has proved to be a patently counterrevolutionary organization which aspires to rule and which has openly declared its intention to seize power. The Polish leadership must decide: if it fails to take decisive measures it will relinquish its positions; if takes decisive measures, introduces martial law, detains the Solidarity extremists, it will restore public order. There is no other way.

[Gromyko expressed his agreement with previous speakers: “We can tell the Poles that we view the Polish events with understanding. This is a precise formulation …” At the same time the Politburo must discourage the expectations of Jaruzelski and other Polish leaders that Soviet troops might be sent to Poland.]

GROMYKO. Despite the fairly unanimous vote of the PZPR Politburo about the introduction of martial law, Jaruzelski has now started wavering again. To begin with he took heart somewhat but now again he’s crumbled. Everything that was said to them previously remains true. If they continue to waver in the struggle against counterrevolution nothing of socialist Poland will remain. The introduction of martial law, of course, would persuade the counterrevolutionaries of the firm intentions of the Polish leadership.


[page eight]

And if the measures they intend to carry out are implemented, I think we could expect positive results. […]

We must not now issue any kind of harsh instructions which would force them to adopt one course or another. I think we will choose the correct position if we say that the restoration of order in Poland is a matter for the Polish United Workers’ Party, its Central Committee, and its Politburo. We have already told our Polish friends and will continue to tell them that they must adopt firm positions and simply must not lose heart.

Of course, if the Poles deliver a blow to Solidarity, the West in all likelihood will not give them credits and will not offer any other kind of help. They are aware of this, and this obviously is something that we, too, have to bear in mind. For this reason, Leonid Ilych was correct in proposing that we instruct a group of comrades to examine this issue and, taking into account our capabilities, to extend substantial economic assistance to the Polish People’s Republic.

USTINOV. The situation in Poland, of course, is very bad. The situation is worsening day by day. Among the leadership, especially in the Politburo, there is no firmness or unity. And all of this has taken its toll on the state of affairs. Only at the last session of the [Polish] Politburo a decision concerning the introduction of martial law was unanimously approved. Now everything depends on Jaruzelski, how he manages to carry out that decision. But no one can openly speak yet about the actions of Jaruzelski. We don’t know either. I had a conversation with [General Florian] Siwicki. He was forthright and said, Even we [the Poles] don’t know what the general is thinking. So the man who has effectively been discharging the duties of the Polish defence minister doesn’t know what will happen next or what actions the Polish prime minister and defence minister will take.


[page nine]

As concerns what Comrade Kulikov allegedly said about sending troops to Poland, I can state with full authority that Kulikov never said such a thing. He simply repeated what we said and what Leonid Ilych said, that we would not leave Poland in the lurch. And he perfectly well knows that the Poles themselves requested us not to send troops.

Soviet army garrisons in Poland were being reinforced. But Ustinov was inclined to think that the Poles would not seek a confrontation and only attack, perhaps, if Solidarity “has them by the throat”.

SUSLOV. I believe, as is evident from the comrades’ speeches, that we all take the same view of the situation in Poland. Throughout the entire period of events in Poland, we have displayed restraint and composure. Leonid Ilych Brezhnev spoke about this at the plenum. We said this in public to our people, and our people supported that policy of the Communist Party.

… This has enabled all peace-loving countries to understand that the Soviet Union staunchly and consistently upholds a policy of peace. That is why it is now impossible for us to change the position we adopted towards Poland from the very beginning of the Polish events. Let the Polish comrades themselves determine what actions they must pursue. It would be inappropriate for us to push them toward more decisive actions. But, as before, we will tell the Poles that we regard their actions with understanding.

It seems to me that Jaruzelski is displaying a certain degree of slyness. He wants to shield himself behind the requests he is making to the Soviet Union. These requests, naturally, are beyond our physical capacity to fulfil. Then Jaruzelski will say: I appealed to the Soviet Union for help, but didn’t get it.


[page ten]

At the same time, the Poles say directly that they are opposed to the sending of troops. If troops are sent that will be a catastrophe. I think we have all reached a unanimous view on this matter, and there can be no question of sending troops.

As concerns the provision of assistance to Poland, we have given it more than a billion roubles’ worth of assistance. Not long ago we decided to ship 30,000 tons of meat to Poland, of which 16,000 tons have already been delivered. I don’t know whether we’ll be able to ship the full 30,000 tons, but in any event we apparently are obliged by this decision to give a further defined number of tons of meat as assistance. …

GRISHIN. The situation in Poland is getting steadily worse. Our party’s approach to the Polish events is entirely correct. …There can be no talk of sending troops. We will have to look at the economic issues and see what we can give the Poles.

SUSLOV. We must expose the intrigues of Solidarity and other counterrevolutionary forces in the press.

CHERNENKO. I fully agree with what the comrades have said here. It is clear that the line of our party and of the Politburo regarding the Polish events, as formulated in the speeches of Leonid Ilych Brezhnev and in the decisions of the Politburo, is entirely correct and in no need of change.

I believe that today we could adopt the following decision:

1. Take note of the information provided by Comrade Baibakov.

2. In our future relations with the Polish People’s Republic, follow the general political approach on this matter laid down by the Central Committee, and also follow the instructions from the Politburo on 8 December 1981 and the exchange of opinions that occurred at the Politburo’s session on 10 December 1981.

3. Instruct Comrades Tikhonov, Kirilenko, Dolgikh, Arkhipov, and Baibakov to continue studying questions of economic assistance to Poland, taking account of the exchange of opinions at the session of the Politburo.


[page eleven]

BREZHNEV. How do the comrades feel about this?

EVERYONE. Comrade Chernenko has very properly formulated all the proposals. Let us adopt them.


[1] On page one this documents bears a stamp stating that it has been  declassified. “Special Archives Commission of the President of the Russian Federation. DOCUMENT DECLASSIFIED, Minute No 20 — 20 August 1993”.
1. Notes by translator and editor are bracketed, thus [ ];
2. text written by hand is indicated in italic script;
3. when a handwritten phrase, figure or word has been inserted
in a previously typed document this is indicated by underlined italic script.
Translation, John Crowfoot