- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

GENEVA — Secret archives of the now-dissolved Warsaw Pact show that the former Soviet Union was prepared to sacrifice much of Poland in the event of a nuclear war with the West.

The Soviet plans for a nuclear war in Europe were among a raft of secret documents that Polish authorities threw open on Thursday to international researchers and to the general public in Warsaw.

A cursory study by Polish analysts shows that the deployment of Soviet nuclear weapons would have prompted retaliatory strikes by NATO that would have wiped out Warsaw and 40 other Polish cities and towns. The fallout would have spread westward, affecting Brussels, Hamburg, Munich and surrounding areas in Germany.

According to Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s defense minister, public access to the 1,700 Warsaw Pact volumes represents “a symbolic end of the communist era.”

Diplomats said Poland has been bracing for a strong reaction from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who earlier this week showed the extent of his power by reducing natural gas pressure in pipelines supplying Moscow’s former satellites.

Poland relies on Russia for almost all its natural gas.

In a statement quoted by the French daily Le Figaro, Mr. Sikorski said it was “crucial that the world learns that during the Cold War, Poland was an unwilling ally of the Soviet Union.”

The strongly anti-communist Polish minister was for three years affiliated with the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute. He belongs to the new conservative team following last October’s election of Lech Kaczynski as Poland’s president.

An official Polish statement said that historians, journalists and members of the public could have access to the declassified documents following their transfer to the Institute of National Remembrance in Poland.

Specialists are currently studying 123 documents still covered by the secrecy clause imposed before the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Officials said that in addition to a description of the disaster striking Europe in the event of a nuclear war, the documents give additional details of “Operation Danube,” the code name of the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The last Soviet “doomsday scenario” for Europe was apparently drafted as far back as 1979, when Karol Wojtyla, a Pole, was elected Pope John Paul II, an act the Kremlin feared would destabilize or destroy communism in its unwilling East European satellites.

According to Mr. Sikorski, the use of Polish territory in a nuclear exchange would have meant the country’s participation in its own destruction.

The opening to the public of the secret archives comes at a time of growing East European criticism of the European Union’s various political and economic overtures to Russia.

At the height of this week’s natural gas crisis, the Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza claimed that “Russia uses its gas as a means of political pressure.”

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