General: Army Would Have Fought Warsaw Pact Invasion During 1980 Uprising
WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ The Warsaw Pact was on the verge of invading in 1980 to crush Solidarity but reconsidered after Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski convinced its leaders that some Polish troops would resist, a retired Czechoslovak general says.
Gen. Stanislav Prochazka was quoted Wednesday as saying that Jaruzelski, who was defense minister at the time and imposed martial law a year later as Poland’s Communist leader, had averted widespread bloodshed.
″I know how Gen. Jaruzelski is criticized in Poland for implementing martial law. But it is a fact that then, in 1980, he prevented a massacre,″ Prochazka was quoted as saying in an article in the weekly newspaper Polityka headlined ″We Were Already in the Tanks.″
Prochazka is a military adviser to Czechoslovakia’s new non-Communist government involved in efforts to democratize the army. Although he did not participate in the 1980 preparations, Prochazka said he obtained his information from reports now accessible to him.
Prochazka had retired after opposing the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia that suppressed the Prague Spring reform movement.
In August 1980, a nationwide strike wave forced Poland’s Communist authorities to allow workers the right to form Solidarity, the first independent labor federation in the Soviet bloc.
The strikes toppled then-Communist leader Edward Gierek and aroused fears among the Kremlin leaders headed by Leonid Brezhnev.
Prochazka said the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact military alliance prepared its invasion plans in earnest in November 1980.
″Soldiers were told that Poland needs international help, because Solidarity seriously threatens socialism,″ he said. ″The soldiers were prepared mentally and physically for possible fighting. They were told that they could expect military resistance from the Polish army.″
Troops were moved into attack positions in early December, but the invasion plans were suddenly called off on Dec. 5 after a meeting of Warsaw Pact leaders in Moscow, he told Polityka.
Prochazka credited Jaruzelski with averting a ″tragic battle″ by convincing other Pact leaders that an invasion would mean a high price in bloodshed because at least part of the army would likely resist.
″The date of full military readiness was set for Dec. 6,″ Prochazka said.
″We were supposed to surround Polish military units in their barracks, completely disabling them from doing anything and allowing Polish authorities to intern Solidarity activists,″ he said.
Prochazka said ″everyone was convinced that the intervention was inevitable,″ but on Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. the troops were ordered to lower readiness.
The next day, the troops began to withdraw from the border and by Dec. 10 they were back in their barracks, he said.
The power struggle between Poland’s Communist authorities and Solidarity continued through 1981, amid recurring Soviet threats.
On Dec. 13, 1981, Jaruzelski, who had been named prime minister and Communist Party leader, led the military crackdown that suppressed Solidarity.
Jaruzelski defended his action as a ″lesser evil,″ implying that if the Polish army had not acted decisively the result would have been a Soviet-led invasion with much bloodshed.
Although banned, Solidarity survived underground throughout the 1980s and regained its legal status in April 1989 under a power-sharing agreement with Communist authorities.
Solidarity won an overwhelming victory in partially free elections in June 1989 and went on to establish the East bloc’s first non-Communist government.
Jaruzelski was elected president by Parliament in July 1989 but has been under pressure to resign.