After eight days of war the Polish People’s Republic was beginning to show signs of uneasiness. Though the evidence was generally unnoticed by a world preoccupied by the war raging, it was nevertheless present, and smoldering. The direct effects of the war were being felt more by Poland than any other Warsaw Pact member-state, with the notable exception of East Germany. Martial law was in effect, along with curfews, and strict rationing. NATO fighter-bombers struck airbases, railheads, highways, and other military targets in Poland every night, while US Special Forces A-Teams were active on the ground guiding air-delivered smart bombs to their targets, committing acts of sabotage, and working to train, arm, and organize anti-Soviet elements in Polish society to rise up against their Communist overseers.
On the surface, Poland appeared to be managing the difficult circumstances well. Citizens were getting by and voicing few complaints. People were mainly concerned with the safety and survival of their families. Animosity towards the Soviets was set aside for the moment. In light of the acceptable behavior displayed by the population, the Polish government, and its security apparatus did not clamp down any more than was necessary. They were, of course, closely monitoring potential troublemakers. But, so long as the Polish people remained complacent, Warsaw was happy. It went without saying that a quiet Poland kept Moscow satisfied as well.
The Polish government was walking on eggshells in an attempt to keep its people, and the Soviets satisfied, but the effort was in vain. Poland had long been the powder keg of the Warsaw Pact. The ‘Gandhi Satellite,’ historically a bastion of non-violent demonstration, and peaceful resistance aimed at Moscow was now more vulnerable than ever to succumbing to an errant spark. All which remained to be seen was when the spark would come, and what form it would take.
The smart money was on Solidarity being that spark. When Jaruzelski declared martial law in late 1981 Solidarity went underground and remained there into the early days of the Third World War. In spite of its status, Solidarity was still quite present in many sectors of Polish society. There were signs of a Solidarity emergence in early 1987, but the Moscow coup, and the subsequent rise in world tensions enticed Walesa into keeping Solidarity in the shadows for the moment. It wasn’t clear for how much longer that moment would last, however.
News of the uprising in the Polish mechanized infantry division in West Germany had not spread beyond the highest echelon of power in the Polish government. Poles at home knew nothing of the drama unfolding to the west, and Warsaw was intent to keep it that way. Polish Army units at home were quietly being kept under close scrutiny by security services, civilian and military. Officers who demonstrated even the slightest anti-socialist sentiment, real or imagined, were quietly arrested and taken away.
There was a debate going on in Warsaw regarding Lech Walesa’s freedom. Given the turn of events, an influential grouping of military and security leaders wanted to arrest Walesa, and the other leaders of Solidarity immediately, before they learned of the uprising. It was assumed that sooner or later the news would reach Walesa and his gang, and when that happened, the consequences for the government were going to be severe. Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland’s head of state and senior military officer, resisted the calls for Walesa’s arrest, pointing out that such an event could end up being a catalyst for a nationwide work stoppage, and demonstrations, spurring a Soviet takeover of the government. Jaruzelski wanted to prevent that from happening at any cost.
Despite his desires, though, more and more sparks were popping up in a dangerously close proximity to the powder keg. It truly seemed to be only a matter of time before the keg was ignited.