The Pope and the USSR
To the Editor:
Michael Ledeen, in his article documenting the Bulgarian/Soviet involvement in the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II [“The Bulgarian Connection and the Media,” June], presents an extremely well-argued thesis. . . .
The Soviet state must be understood in terms of a paranoid system in which symbolic enemies are far more frightening than real ones. . . . The most fearful symbolic object for the Soviets was Trotsky, who served as devil incarnate from 1927 until 1940 when he was murdered in Coyoacán, Mexico, by an agent of Stalin. At no time during those agonizing years did Trotsky present an actual threat to the security of Soviet power. He was a furtive, shabby figure whose main claim to notice occurred when a commission was convened in 1937 in Coyoacán, headed by John Dewey, to hear Trotsky’s side of the Moscow trials. As a real challenge to Stalin, Trotsky was pathetic. Nevertheless, because he was a potent symbolic threat, his death was required.
At present, what more potent symbol could this paranoid system have than a Polish Pope? Poland is the most important link in the Soviet/East European empire. . . . We now know that the KGB concluded in 1979 after John Paul II took office that Zbigniew Brzezinski had “engineered” his election to take advantage of Polish discontent and “destabilize” Poland in order to separate it from the Soviet system. Recently, we saw that the Soviets continue to regard the Pope as a potent symbol, if only because they allowed their Polish satraps to treat him as such during his historic visit to Poland in June.
Though most of the Western press fell silent, allegedly in the interest of world peace, the Soviets have made it clear that to keep the empire intact they would shrink from nothing, including, as one Italian official put it, a “true act of war in a time of peace.”
Two hundred and ten years ago, the first partition of Poland took place among Russia, Prussia, and Austria, with the greater portion in Russian hands. For two hundred and ten years whoever sat in Moscow, from the Romanovs to Andropov, knew that Poland was the key to Russian domination in Eastern Europe. To keep Poland pacified, it is very much within the realm of possibility that the Soviets could kill a Pope, especially a Pope viewed as a creature of the CIA bent upon the destruction of Soviet power. . . .
Mr. Ledeen’s last sentence talks of the “systematic distortion of reality” by the Western press. I suggest that he is correct and that this is a conditioned reflex to the Soviet distortion of the same facts.