This is the latest installment in the Drowned Baby Timeline, an alternate history where Adolf Hitler drowned at birth and where World War II never took place. The largest state in Central Europe is the Polish Commonwealth, which includes the historical Second Polish Republic, eastern Germany, and the former Soviet republics of Byelorussia and Ukraine. Eight months after the end of the Second Polish-Soviet War, Josef Stalin ponders his options . . .
17 November 1945
Andrei Gromyko was one of the rising young stars of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Of course, the reason he was a rising star was because most of his superiors (including the late ex-Foreign Commissar Molotov) had been liquidated in the latest round of purges, but it didn't pay to think about that. Instead, Gromyko concentrated on his upcoming interview with the Great Stalin.
After being thoroughly searched by a squad of grim-faced men, he was allowed to proceed under armed escort to the doors of the Comrade General Secretary's office. The door warden then opened the door a couple of spans, and Gromyko was allowed to edge through it.
The room beyond was completely empty, just four walls painted a sickly yellow, a bare wooden floor with some disturbing stains, a ceiling with a naked light bulb, and the door which slammed shut behind him. Gromyko stood uncomfortably for five minutes in the empty room, wondering what was going to happen to him. One heard stories about these interviews with the Vozhd' of course, but it didn't pay to think about them either. Fighting down panic, Gromyko stood silently.
A sudden crackle of feedback startled Gromyko. A tinny voice from a concealed speaker spoke in an unmistakable Georgian accent. "Good morning, Comrade Gromyko."
It was 1 AM, so Gromyko supposed that it could technically be considered morning. "Good morning, Comrade General Secretary," he cautiously answered.
"You may be wondering why you have been asked to this interview," said the voice. "It concerns your recent report on relations with the Polish imperialists. I wish for you to expand upon the points you made in that report."
"Certainly, Comrade General Secretary," said Gromyko. Unfortunately, knowing the purpose of his interview made it, if anything, even more nerve-wracking. If Stalin had decided (or was going to decide) that Gromyko's report represented an undesirable policy option, Gromyko might find himself on a one-way trip to Siberia. On the other hand, if Stalin decided that Gromyko's report represented a desirable policy option, Gromyko might still find himself on a one-way trip to Siberia, with the consolation of having his report become Stalin's report. Oh well, in for a kopek, in for a ruble.
"Recent reports from Italy," Gromyko began, "make it clear that the Poles have acquired the ability to create atomic weapons. This complicates the task of recovering those territories which the Poles and their Finnish and Estonian allies temporarily gained control of at the conclusion of the last war. Until such time as the USSR acquires its own atomic weapons, Soviet policy regarding Poland must be adjusted accordingly. Hence, our relations with the Polish imperialists over the short to medium term, which is to say within the next five to ten years, must pass through four stages.
"The first stage consists of isolating the Poles from the British and French imperialists, who are also in possession of atomic weapons, and if possible of pitting them against each other. This is particularly urgent given the propaganda offensive the Poles have mounted in the West against the USSR, using their Trotskyist puppet Orwell. The dialectics of Marxism-Leninism tell us that capitalist nations will inevitably come to blows as they compete with each other for resources and markets. We must hasten this confrontation by using our agents of influence in London and Paris to popularize the idea that the Poles have designs on the Western puppet states of Hanover and Bavaria, and that an alliance with the USSR is the proper way to counter the Polish threat.
"The second stage consists of breaking up the alliance which the Poles have built up with the other imperialist states of Eastern Europe, notably Finland, Romania and Yugoslavia. There is already a certain amount of concern within these states that the proposed Warsaw Pact Economic Community will be used by the Poles as a means of establishing economic hegemony. The Soviet Union should offer trade incentives to these nations to encourage them to look beyond the Warsaw Pact for economic advancement. Although this will of course require diverting economic resources from the Soviet Union's own civilian sector, the goal of disrupting the Warsaw Pact clearly must take precedence.
"The third stage consists of breaking up the Polish Commonwealth itself. There already exist a number of nationalist political groupings within the various so-called autonomous regions of Poland seeking independence. It should be our policy to provide financial and logistical support to these groups, and if possible to co-opt their leadership cadres to make them more receptive to the possibility of alliance, or even union, with the Soviet Union following their secession from Poland.
"The fourth stage consists of providing financial and logistical support to the Polish reactionary groups, especially the National Socialists, who wish to destabilize the current bourgeois regime. In the absence of a viable Polish Communist Party" absent because Stalin had had all the Polish Communists liquidated after the war, but of course it wouldn't do to mention that, "the Polish reactionaries are the most likely candidates for this role. A civil war between the bourgeoisie and the reactionaries would provide the ideal moment for the resumption of the liberation of Poland by the Red Army."
Taking a deep breath, Gromyko plunged forward to the conclusion of his report. "The end result: over a hundred million people who currently suffer under capitalist oppression would live in Socialist freedom. We would no longer have an implacable enemy in Central Europe, but a Socialist ally in the war against the imperialist regimes of France, Italy and Great Britain. The march of Socialist progress will continue on, with humanity's further liberation under the sign of the sickle and hammer not far ahead."
There was another long pause while Gromyko waited for he knew not what. Finally the speaker crackled to life again, and the tinny voice said, "Thank you for your report, Comrade Gromyko. You have given me much food for thought." Then came the words Gromyko had been longing for, but had hardly dared hope to hear. "You are dismissed."
The door behind him re-opened, and Andrei Gromyko returned once more to the land of the living.