restricted access Document No. 75: Memorandum from Alexander Haig to President Reagan, “U.S. Assistance Program for Poland, ” December 1, 1981
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409 Document No. 75: Memorandum from Alexander Haig to President Reagan, “U.S. Assistance Program for Poland” December 1, 1981 The Reagan administration was acutely aware of Poland’s dire economic circumstances and the importance of aid from the West. Just a week before this message to the president from the secretary of state, Washington had authorized a $30 million donation of basic foodstuffs to the people of Poland. Here, Haig states his belief that “our entire tradition and security interests dictate prompt action.” He proposes immediate additional aid worth $100 million and a longer-term multilateral program of up to $2.5 billion. The administration follows up with promises of aid but the imposition of martial law forces a reassessment of policy options. On December 23, Reagan institutes an economic embargo against Poland but exempts humanitarian aid directed towards “the Polish people” rather than to the regime, while in January the administration announces it will attempt to help Poland avoid defaulting on its loans to Western banks. The Secretary of State Washington December 1, 1981 Memorandum for: The President From: Alexander M. Haig, Jr. Subject: U.S. Assistance Program for Poland In my memorandum of November 13, I expressed concern that democratic for­ ces in Poland would be unable to preserve and consolidate their increasingly impressive gains without additional U.S. assistance. Since then it has become even clearer that Poland is on the verge of potentially catastrophic economic crisis— the sort of crisis that could demoralize and discredit the democratic forces and lead to the re-imposition of an inflexible Soviet-style communist dictatorship. In my opinion our entire tradition and security interests dictate prompt action to avert such an outcome and to reinforce a process that has already placed Moscow on the diplomatic, political and economic defensive and could eventually undermine Soviet control throughout Eastern Europe. As a result of Wałęsa’s public call for U.S. aid and private messages from Pope John Paul II, I am confident that our assistance can be presented and implemented in a way that not only minimizes the risk of Soviet intervention or counteraction but enhances the already formidable power of Solidarity and the Church. Among other things, a meeting between you and Wałęsa could be uti- 410 lized to demonstrate the fact that we are backing a struggle for national selfdetermination and political liberalization against a failing communist regime. Wałęsa has indicated that he is thinking along similar lines. He has told Ambassador Meehan that Solidarity’s ability to secure U.S. aid could decisively affect the outcome of current negotiations over the reform of the Polish economy and the redistribution of political power. The Poles have just approached us with an urgent request for $200 million worth of corn, soybean meal and other commodities. Our experts say that $100 million in corn and soybean meal will allow them to carry their livestock and poultry industries through the next three months. Absent such assistance, which only the U.S. can provide in a timely fashion, the Poles would be forced to engage in large-scale distress slaughtering which would further complicate their already massive mid- and long-term economic problems. As a first step, therefore, the Cabinet Councils on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has decided that we should proceed on a $100 million program in emergency food assistance for Poland through a sale of Commodity Credit Corporation-held corn. Sales financed by CCC dollar credits could be made on appropriately long repayment terms. No immediate legislative action would be required for these sales, nor would there be any budgetary impact. I have talked to John Block and he is eager to help resolve the Polish food crisis. We are working together on solutions to several technical problems involved in a sale of surplus CCC corn. In addition, he feels that emergency assistance [must] be combined with a larger assistance effort addressing Poland’s food needs over the coming year. Accordingly, I recommend that, as a second step, you authorize me to begin consultations with our allies soon on a multilateral aid effort for Poland totaling $2–2.5 billion, of which we would expect the U.S. share to be approximately 25 percent, all in agricultural commodities. Such a U.S. contribution, of which the $100 million in emergency food assistance should form a part, would enable us to meet substantially the recent Polish request to purchase $740 million in agricultural commodities. This figure approximates Polish purchases...