WORLD

Time to get the act together

ROBERT LEWIS February 8 1982
WORLD

Time to get the act together

ROBERT LEWIS February 8 1982

Time to get the act together

POLAND

External Affairs Minister Mark MacGuigan conceded the difficulty openly. “We’ve obviously had some problems with our public relations in discussing the Polish situation,” he acknowledged last week. Then, finally, Pierre Trudeau and MacGuigan sorted out their differences. They enunciated a new, firmer line that even drew kind words from Polish-Canadian leaders. The catalyst was a speech by Polish leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, which MacGuigan dismissed as “rather disappointing.” The reason: while

promising an end to martial law “as soon as possible,” Jaruzelski did not set a date and he held out no hope that Solidarity will re-emerge as an independent trade union. On top of that, U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig said, after talks with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in Geneva, that the situation “casts a long, dark shadow” over East-West relations.

After more than a month of seemingly contradictory positions, Trudeau declared that he and four Polish-Canadian leaders had agreed that “there should be a relaxation and cessation of martial law”; that Solidarity and the Roman Catholic Church should be invited to join talks with Polish authorities; and that prisoners rounded up following the imposition of martial law last December should be released. Earlier, MacGuigan announced that Canada is now “open” to a study of a unified

application of economic sanctions against the Soviet Union. “We’re glad, finally, that the Canadian government has shifted its position,” said Jan Kaszuba, president of the Canadian Polish Congress.

More worrisome than the clash over approaches to Poland was the realization by insiders that the external affairs department’s historic ability to develop cogent, consistent policies had broken down. Accordingly, Trudeau scheduled a special session with foreign policy experts this week in an attempt to map out a more considered response to Polish developments.

They will need to act fast if they are to keep up with the allies, let alone the Polish situation. At week’s end, France let it be known that, like West Germany, it opposes sanctions. And while Jaruzelski’s announcement seemed unbending, it was widely seen in Europe as a defensive move in advance of huge price increases due to go into effect this

week. This week, the cost of basic foodstuffs, energy and home utilities was due to increase by as much as 500 per cent. Jaruzelski is unlikely to have forgotten that far less devastating increases get several of his predecessors into serious trouble with angry Poles.

Moreover, while Haig appeared to have gained little satisfaction from his lengthy talks with Gromyko, European commentators noted that the Soviet foreign minister had abandoned his customary reserve sufficiently to note that the U.S.-Soviet confrontation had not yet grown so acute as to revive the Cold War. “All is not lost yet,” he said, and observers took his words as a sign that some progress had been made on Poland.

For its part, Ottawa’s new line flowed from a month-long clash behind the scenes between Trudeau and MacGuigan which, in turn, was reflected down the ranks of the foreign policy bureaucracy. On the one hand, there was

Pierre Trudeau, the honorable member from realpolitik, who accepted the postYalta theory of “spheres of influence” and maintained that martial law was better than a Soviet invasion. “You either accept what’s happened in Europe in the past 40 years, or you don’t,” says a Trudeau supporter. On the other hand, there was the more hawkish MacGuigan, a cool warrior who leaned to the AÍ Haig school of Red-bashing. MacGuigan finally persuaded Trudeau that the return to normalcy in Poland, as the prime minister put it, “is not evolving fast enough.”

Domestic politics clearly played a role in last week’s new line. Because of outrage in constituencies with big Polish votes, James Fleming, minister of

state for multiculturalism, urged Trudeau to make peace with the Polish leaders. But Trudeau’s original stance, intriguingly, was shaped by another bit of domestic reality: he too used troops to put down apprehended trouble. As the prime minister allowed in. the Commons last week: “I do not believe that in advance we can or should condemn the use of troops by any of our friends, if it is to avoid a worse result. We have used them under the War Measures Act in 1970.” The “scope,” he said, was different. But for Trudeau, the thorny Polish issue posed the same dilemma—“we must ask ourselves if there was a better scenario.” —ROBERT LEWIS

Peter Lewis

Iain Guest