Workers in Poland are threatening to unravel Soviet dominance over the political affairs of Eastern Europe. Will Moscow have to make a deal with the West to preserve its interests? If so, the political map of Europe will be altered beyond recognition — with grave consequences for Britain and the United States. NOT SINCE the late Marshal Josip Broz Tito wrested independence for Yugoslavia in 1948 has the Soviet Union been faced with such a stern challenge in Europe. At stake is Moscow's entire buffer zone that it acquired by force in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Communist Party officials in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania are deeply disturbed over the stunning economic and political concessions made by Poland's communist government to that country's newly independent labor movement. They fear that Poland's whiff of freedom will blow their way as well, threatening the communist monopoly of power.
To Crush, or Not to Crush The year 1980 ended with the military forces of the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact allies poised to forcefully put an end to the Polish experiment. That the Soviets could do so no one doubted. Kept in a stage of alert, in a tightened noose around Poland, were some sixty Soviet divisions — roughly one-third the entire armed might of the U.S.S.R.
But military intervention, on the order of Soviet thrusts into Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, confronts Moscow with a decidedly no-win option, one that the Kremlin has shown extreme reluctance to exercise.
Intervention could not be undertaken without paying an enormous price. The Polish army and civilian population would resist mightily. According to some estimates, the Soviets might have to use up to a million soldiers — and keep them there indefinitely. The fifteen Polish divisions, moreover, would be lost to the Warsaw Pact's forward defense structure. Worst of all, civil insurrection in Poland would leave Moscow's most strategic buffer state of all, East Germany, virtually isolated on the western perimeter.
Military intervention, moreover would seriously cripple the Soviet war effort in Afghanistan, which has become bogged down. Defenses along the Soviet Union's 7,000 mile, often — tense border with archrival China, would suffer cutbacks.
The Polish Burden The Kremlin knows full well that a military move would likely mean the complete collapse of the Polish economy, whose chronic weakness led to, the labor unrest in the first place last summer. Militant labor leaders have warned Moscow that Russian soldiers might be able to force Polish workers back to the factories, mines and shipyards — but they couldn't make them work.
Soviet leaders have agonized over the grim prospects of having to assume, under occupation conditions, the burden of helping feed Poland's thirty-five million people. The U.S.S.R. has suffered through two bad harvests, Poland three. In the aftermath of intervention, Poland's private farmers — who comprise eighty percent of that country's farm force — would probably stop producing for the urban areas, gravely compounding the food shortages.
Moscow would also have to assume the burden of Poland's enormous debt to Western banks, now $23 billion. (The sum is so huge that Polish exports barely pay the yearly interest due on these loans. After an intervention, production of key export items, such as coal and ships, would be seriously impaired.)
Lastly, NATO member countries quickly warned Moscow of grave repercussions to be expected in the wake of marching orders into Poland. At stake, they warned, was the Soviet Union's confirmed access to Western grain supplies as well as a full array of advanced technology.
Moscow's Security Concerns All in all, Moscow was confronted with a dilemma that promised, as 1981 began, to look like a nearly hopeless situation. Intervention would mean incalculable bloodshed and grave economic setbacks for both Poland and the Soviet Union. But not to intervene might only insure the gradual slipping away of nearly its entire buffer zone in Central and Eastern Europe.
Above all else, the Soviets are concerned over their Western defensive line. Moscow came out of World War II having lost twenty million people, and demanding protection against any possible revival of fascism. It seized that protection for itself in the form of the military occupation of the eastern part of Germany. Seizure of the war-ravaged states of Eastern Europe completed the cordon sanitaire against an invasion from the West.
"As long as a Soviet army sits on the East Germans," notes Joseph C. Hatsch of the Christian Science Monitor, "Moscow can feel secure against a German revival." But that Soviet position, Mr. Hatsch observes, would disappear if Moscow lost control of Poland. That would automatically and inevitably lead to the eventual loss by Moscow of control over East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
"There would then be nothing left" adds Mr. Hatsch, "of what the men of Moscow regard as their just compensation for the enormous losses they suffered during World War II."
Conflicting Nationalisms Clearly, the challenge to the leadership of the Soviet Union is how to preserve its interests in Central and Eastern Europe while at the same time diffusing political unrest that threatens to have the Red Army intervening time and again. Is there another way, the Kremlin must surely be thinking.
After thirty-five years of Soviet-imposed communism, the national self-identities of the Eastern European states have simply refused to be submerged. In the dark Stalinist period of the late 1940s the U.S.S.R. tried to suppress the individual nationalisms. But it has long since given up trying to recast its once totally — subservient satellites in a made-in-Moscow mold.
The nations of Eastern Europe are not only different from the peoples of the Soviet Union, they vary greatly from each other. They range from the Germans in the north, through various families of the Slavic race, to the Magyars in Hungary and the Romanians in the southeast. As their very name attests, the Romanians, in language and culture, are inheritors of the cultural traditions of Western Europe.
Moscow has had to tolerate these national differences and accommodate a wide range of approaches to communism. Hungary, for example, practices what the Soviets derisively call "goulash communism," a mixture of state enterprises coupled with a small-scale private enterprise. As a result, Soviet tourists come in droves to Hungary to take advantage of better quality merchandise at bargain prices.
By some yardsticks, Hungary is the most prosperous nation in Eastern Europe, surpassing East Germany (which in turn has passed Great Britain in per-capita income). The Budapest regime carefully allows a measure of free political expression to vent dissent.
On the other end of the scale, in Romania, authorities maintain the tightest political reins at home. By doing so, Moscow permits the Bucharest regime a wide latitude in foreign affairs, from extensive trade contacts with the West to even recognition of the state of Israel.
In nearly every case, Moscow has had to permit freedom in some major area — either comparative freedom on the home front or political latitude in international affairs. But never both at the same time.
A Way Out for Moscow? Nowhere in this simmering caldron of Eastern Europe are either the Russians or the Soviet-backed national communist governments loved. A recent clandestine survey in Poland, conducted by a French magazine, revealed that only three percent of those questioned would vote for the Communist Party in free elections.
The Soviet empire is kept in line only by the threat of superior military force. But even this has its limits in the event of widespread civil unrest throughout the region.
"The hostility between these societies and the Soviet Union," notes political analyst William Pfaff, "poses a basic and lasting problem for the Soviet government. These states are never going to provide the totally reliable zone of security the Soviet Union wants. It is time this is recognized in the Kremlin."
There is an answer — "the only solution," says Mr. Pfaff, to the Soviet dilemma — the "Finlandization" of Eastern Europe. Under such a process, the Soviets would be encouraged to release the Eastern European societies to enjoy their autonomy — within a controlled European framework guaranteeing Soviet security interests. (The term "Finlandization" derives from the somewhat restricted foreign policies that Finland, an otherwise free neighbor of the Soviet Union, can carry out.)
"This solution," adds Mr. Pfaff, "will be extremely difficult to achieve. It will require intelligence in the West as well as in Moscow, and self-discipline in Eastern Europe. But it is the only solution."
Bible prophecies clearly indicate some such "solution" — which would radically redraw the political map of Europe.
Restored Roman Empire Viewing the events unfolding in Eastern Europe, Editor in Chief Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in a co-worker letter dated August 27, 1980:
"Will Poland free itself from Soviet domination and join with Yugoslavia, Romania and possibly Czechoslovakia — and with Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Austria — in a resurrected medieval 'Holy Roman Empire' to dominate Europe and equal the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. in world power?"
The Bible clearly indicates that this final end-time restoration of the Roman Empire will be composed of "ten horns," meaning ten nations or ruling entities (Revelation 17:12). This system will exist at the return of Jesus Christ to this earth to establish the Kingdom of God.
The second chapter of the book of Daniel tells of the same time — not far in the future when the Kingdom of God, pictured as a great stone "cut out without (human) hands" will crush this final system of human government to dominate the world. Here this ten-nation system is pictured as having his feet "part of iron, and part of clay" (Daniel 2:33).
Note that the toes — obviously ten — correspond to the ten national units of Revelation 17.
The original Roman Empire was broken into two "legs" — the Eastern empire in Byzantium (later Constantinople, today Istanbul) and the empire in the West in Rome. Thus it is very possible that the restored end-time system will be composed of two distinct yet cooperative parts: the first comprising some of the present Common Market nations of Western Europe, the second from Central and Eastern Europe grouped around elements of the communist "Comecon" organization.
Watch Austria Too What is transpiring in Poland today is the first concrete step in the refashioning of western, central and much of eastern Europe into a new arrangement.
Significantly, Mr. Armstrong mentions Austria as one of the nations to watch. Austria is a neutral nation on the eastern flank of noncommunist Europe. Even today it acts as the bridge between East and West Europe. But in a reconstituted Roman Empire, Austria — with its renowned capital, Vienna, the seat of authority for the Holy Roman Empire for hundreds of years — would be in the very center of things.
Kept on display in the Schatzkamer or Royal Treasury in the old Imperial Palace (Hofburg) in Vienna is the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, dating back to the time of Otto the Great in the tenth century. It seems to be waiting for one final emplacement.
Perhaps for a reason, a massive governmental complex has recently been completed along the banks of the Danube River in Vienna. Called "U.N. City," it belongs to the government of Austria, but was leased in part to the United Nations as a third U.N. headquarters. Might it be used for other purposes in the future?
NATO Finished The restored Roman system will radically change big power relations. NATO, as it presently exists would be finished.
Moscow, in return for granting limited freedom to the nations of Eastern Europe would insist that the new European system be politically independent from the United States.
The Soviets have further, reason for such an arrangement. If they could pry Western Europe away from the United States, they would negate Washington's intention of stationing powerful new nuclear weapons in Europe, now scheduled for around 1985.
Such a Soviet-European arrangement would be coupled, no doubt, with a mutual nonaggression treaty and vastly increased trade. The chronically weak Soviet economy will need much help during the 1980s. Already, during the past decade of detente, East-West trade in Europe has increased dramatically. Soviet trade with West Germany now amounts to about $7 billion a year, that with France around $4 billion.
West European dependence upon East bloc energy sources are increasingly very important. By the mid-1980s the Soviets will be supplying thirty percent of the natural gas consumed in West Germany.
And now, a respectable petroleum research organization in Sweden reports that Soviet engineers have made the world's largest discovery of oil in Western Siberia. As a result, total Soviet oil reserves are now estimated as high as 4.55 trillion barrels, many times greater than the combined reserves of all Middle East oil fields.
The nations of continental Western Europe are almost totally dependent upon Mideast and North Africa oil. What a "bargaining chip" the Soviets may have with energy-starved Western Europe if their reserves are proven out!
Britain, U.S. Isolated The future Romanized Europe will not be good news for Britain and the United States. Britain, along with fellow Common Market member Denmark, will likely not be a part of a new arrangement.
Britain's relationship with the Continent is tenuous enough as it is. A very large portion of the British public has never quite approved of Britain's membership in the European Economic Community.
The opposition Labour Party, at its annual conference last October, actually approved a position calling for Britain's removal from the community, once it resumes office.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is having an extremely difficult time trying to turn around the over-taxed, hyperinflated British economy, saddled for three decades with socialist spending programs.
For the past fifteen years the United States has been going in the same inward-oriented direction, causing great concern among knowledgeable continental Europeans. In an interview in the November 10-16 issue of Le Point, French sociologist Michel Crozier says that "today one sees [in America] what one saw in Britain in 1950-1955. If this tendency continues it will be a disaster."
After the war, war-torn Europe looked to the United States not only for its military protection, but for a societal model. Optimistic, prosperous America was the "Promised Land."
Now, Mr. Crozier admits, "for us there is no longer a model or a promised land," adding that "salvation is not across the ocean."
Writing in the New Yorker magazine, William Pfaff stresses that for Europeans, "American moral authority has been seriously undermined, mainly as a consequence of the Vietnam War."
Mr. Pfaff also points out that America and Europe have steadily drifted apart over the past few years, "that on the two sides of the Atlantic we are societies rather remote from one another, and that the United States today has perhaps become even more distant from Western Europe than it was in the isolationist nineteen-twenties and thirties."
The United States no longer considers itself largely an out-growth of European culture — the Old World transplanted into the New World. Much of this is due to the growth of non-European ethnic minorities within the United States.
"Europe today," says Mr. Pfaff, "doesn't interest Americans very much" and America "with its idealism and moral energy no longer interests Europeans as it did in the forties or at the time of Woodrow Wilson.... It means that Western Europe, released from its fear of itself, has become free again — whether we like it or not."
Stage Is Set Conditions are ripe now, more than ever before since the close of the Second World War, for a massive end-time reshaping of the world's political systems.
Western Europe and the United States are drifting apart — leading to America's dangerous isolation. At the same time, the Soviet Union realizes it must solve its Eastern European enigma. Out of these twin developments will emerge a new — yet ancient-political alignment.
Continue to watch these developments unfold. Watch for the impact that the Polish Pope, John Paul II, will have on the largely Roman Catholic Eastern European nations as they come out from behind the Iron Curtain. Watch to see what role Austria — that unique bridge between East and West — will play.
Bible prophecy is racing on!