restricted access 3. Bilateral Relations Were about as Cold as You Can Imagine: Diplomatic Stalemate, September 1982 to January 1985
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88 c h a p t e r t h r e e Bilateral Relations Were about as Cold as You Can Imagine Diplomatic Stalemate, September 1982 to January 1985 When John Davis arrived in Warsaw as chargé d’affaires ad interim in September 1983, he was the third in a string of chargés since Ambassador Meehan exited earlier in the year. Davis thought it would be a temporary position; he only had a six-month mandate. The working assumption was that during those six months, he and his superiors in Washington would be able to improve bilateral relations with the Polish government to allow an exchange of full ambassadors. That assumption proved incorrect. With meeting after meeting leading to dead end after dead end, both sides stubbornly refused to give ground. Following one particularly tense meeting with MSZ officials, Davis returned to the embassy and made light of the stalemate in his casual, low-key manner: “Well, it looks like I am going to have to buy another shirt.”1 His six-month mandate lasted more than six years. Davis’s experience was neither unique nor particularly noteworthy in the long series of contentious meetings that characterized bilateral relations in the mid-1980s. Lasting improvements in bilateral relations were hard to come by. Beginning in November 1982 Jaruzelski did take steps toward liberalization , but internal dynamics meant that these changes did not follow a predictable trajectory. After a period of dragging its feet, the White House ultimately codified a “step-by-step” relationship with the PZPR in which specific steps toward liberalization would be rewarded by lifting individual sanctions, but in a volatile environment this led Washington to suspend some sanctions and, in a few cases, to impose new ones. Both sides met with successes and failures, but a significant breakthrough in relations remained elusive. bilateral relations 89 Beyond the scope of government-to-government relations, humanitarian organizations continued their work, with Congress playing a central role. Legislators approved appropriations to support a second pillar of independent society—individual, private farmers—and passed legislation to provide direct payments to improve Poland’s health-care infrastructure. Capitol Hill also worked with the White House to give nongovernmental organizations a new, powerful source of funding—the National Endowment for Democracy—buttressing continued efforts by the transnational network keeping Solidarność alive. In Warsaw, the American embassy took steps to independently support the opposition, creating close personal relationships with Solidarność activists increasingly living aboveground. Davis also utilized discreet channels to free high-profile internees in return for reducing specific sanctions. Despite these positive trends beneath the surface, at the beginning of 1985 Polish-American ties found themselves in yet another diplomatic crisis, showing just how little relations had progressed. Internal Dynamics of Change On July 22, 1982, the Jaruzelski regime began rolling back martial law by announcing a limited amnesty for political prisoners. In all, more than twelve hundred prisoners were released, and Jaruzelski hinted that martial law might be suspended by the end of the year. Despite this gesture, advocates within Solidarność for a strong, centralized underground society were skeptical that they could reach a compromise with the government. To show their continuing strength, the TKK called for street demonstrations on August 31, the second anniversary of the signing of the Gdańsk Accords.2 For activists like Jacek Kuroń, the demonstrations were designed to show that the people had not been intimidated and to force the authorities into direct negotiations.3 On August 31, large crowds gathered and clashed with milicja, Zmotoryzowane Odwody Milicji Obywatelskiej (Motorized Reserves of the Citizens’ Militia or ZOMO), and police. According to the MSW, demonstrations occurred in sixty-six cities and involved about 118,000 people. Marchers hurled rocks, paving stones, and even Molotov cocktails at the authorities, in stark contrast to peaceful demonstrations the previous May. Jaruzelski and Minister of Internal Affairs Kiszczak were prepared, and riot police and security forces used deadly force to control the situation. Two people in Lublin and two people in Gdańsk died after government forces fired into the crowds. Despite the turnout elsewhere, demonstrations in Warsaw proved to be much 90 bilateral relations smaller than organizers hoped, drawing only about 15,000 people, compared to the 50,000 to 100,000 that opposition leaders had been expecting.4 With international attention focused on the capital, this smaller-than-expected turnout and the authorities’ ability to “quash antigovernment demonstrations ” with...


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