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Poland: Jaruzelski Says 1968 Invasion A Political And Moral Mistake

Prague, 10 August 1998 (RFE/RL) - Poland's former president, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, says the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia was a political mistake that should also be morally condemned. But he also says that at the time, he fully supported the Soviet-led military operation.

Jaruzelski was a minor participant in the 1968 Czech drama. He was then a newly appointed Defense Minister and did not take part in any political or even military decisions. These were taken by the Soviet officials, but with significant input from top German, Polish and Hungarian communist leaders.

Jaruzelski told Czech TV in an interview earlier this year that the Polish communist leader, Wladyslaw Gomulka, was closely involved in the efforts to mount the invasion. But Jaruzelski himself was also supportive of the invasion. Now, he has changed his mind:

"Invasion against Czechoslovakia was a major historical mistake. It was a violation of rules shaping international relations. And it was a decision and an action that must be morally condemned.

"But at that time, I, and many other people, saw the situation (in Czechoslovakia) in a different light. One has to remember that the world was then very different. The world, and Europe, were divided into two antagonistic blocs.

"A concept of the so-called balance of forces, or, to put it less elegantly, the balance of fears, prevailed then. Each side was concerned that any change adversely affecting its interests could lead to further (negative) consequences."

Polish troops entered Czechoslovakia on August 20. Their role was relatively minor. But no Polish communist politician or military officer opposed either the decision or the operation.