Warsaw Pact archives released by Poland reveal dark secrets of Soviet policy

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Under communism, Poles - who found themselves in the Soviet sphere of influence after the war - were conditioned to view Western states as a constant threat to the socialist camp. But these newly released archives show that the USSR was fully prepared to sacrifice its Eastern bloc allies, if need be. Radio Polonia's Slawek Szefs has the story.

Poland was assigned the role of a buffer zone in case of an armed nuclear conflict erupting between the superpowers of the politically and economically divided hemispheres.

In order to gain detailed and first hand knowledge about Warsaw Pact plans with regard to Poland, the minister of defense has decided to form a special commission which would pass the files to the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN).

The archives could then be made available to historians for further study. Defense minister Radoslaw Sikorski says the successive stages of the potential attack had been worked out in minute detail.

"There are exact locations of planned nuclear strikes on Polish territory with assigned kilo-ton power of blasts. Their concentration was to be the greatest along the Vistula River and around Warsaw, the capital. It was taken for granted that a Warsaw Pact attack on the West would entail nuclear annihilation of Poland".

Head of the Remembrance Institute, Professor Leon Kieres confirms the documents contain some shocking information. One such item is a general staff map from 1979, describing an attack on Western Europe with the use of nuclear weapons.

"It was envisaged that in the event of a military confrontation with NATO, Poland would suffer severe losses in civilian population with some 2 million people killed, as nuclear counter strikes of the enemy would target 43 Polish cities".

The Warsaw Pact archives contain some 17 hundred sections. Adam Zamoyski, a London-based Polish historian, says Poles have the right to learn the facts from their latest history.

"One has to learn the hard facts of life. And I think the problem with Polish society is that it's been kept in the dark. As a result people have incomplete knowledge and they still make some very strange judgements, because they don't know their past well enough."

The decision to open the Warsaw Pact archives has also brought speculation on the reaction of Russia. And, indeed, head of the international affairs committee of the Russian parliament Konstantin Kosachov says the decision to open the files carries purely political motivation.

"The actions of the Polish authorities aim at presenting to the international public the the former Soviet Union and present day Russia as the source of all evil in Europe".

Oskar Chomicki from the Poland In Europe Foundation is sure the former Big Brother will not be happy with the news that is to be made public.

"Making these files public in such an open and dramatic way does not seem to be conducive and to better relations between Poland and Russia. Knowing that President Putin is very touchy on certain subjects he will be double touchy in the future when it concerns Polish exports to Russia and other issues which are of importance to this country."

But whatever immediate consequences derive from the opening of this Pandora's box, the Polish nation does have the right to know how its fate had been engineered by the Warsaw Pact military brass in their war games. Games which could have easily turned into reality.