Moscow — The Kremlin seems increasingly disenchanted with Poland's top Communist leaders -- both Communist Party chief Stanislaw Kania and soldier-Premier Wojciech Jaruzelski -- East European sources here report.
But they caution that the how, what, when, and whether of Soviet action on that displeasure can only be guessed at.
Indeed, this kind of qualifier has become almost a theme song for the eight-month-old Polish crisis, and senior diplomats here increasingly suspect even the Soviet leadership may have little clear idea of what comes next.
Some comments from Western countries seem almost to imply some privileged peek at President Leonid Brezhnev's datebook: Thursday, it would presumably read , lunch with the kids. . . . Friday, pick up laundry. . . . Saturday, invade Poland.
"Just because we are dealing with a superpower," a veteran West European Sovietologist here rebuts, "we assume they invariably know precisely what they are doing.
"But it may be time to take stock of the fact that Moscow is dealing with what is probably its most difficult single crisis since the Cuban missiles, maybe since the Second World War."
Both Western and East European diplomats -- the second group is harder to get to, but generally much better informed on Soviet thinking nowadays -- tend to agree with that assessment.
Many analysts here now view the rollercoaster pattern of Soviet-Polish tension in recent months less as part of some Kremlin master plan than as a reflection of Kremlin puzzlement over just how to cope with the crisis.
Mr. Brezhnev, speaking before the Czechoslovak Communist Party congress in Prague April 7, in effect left all his options open, including the presumed last choice of open military intervention.
But the address did not reveal much else about Soviet intentions, and one explanation current here is that all Soviet alternatives on the Polish front are unappetizing to the Kremlin.
Mr. Brezhnev emphasized the need for tough action by the Polish Communist leadership itself.
East European sources have said they were informed by Soviet officials before Mr. Brezhnev's sudden visit to Prague that one course of action being considered by Moscow was to press for introduction of martial law by the Polish authorities.
But beyond the obvious potential dangers along that path, such as the possibility some Poles might fight back, there are fresh indications here of a lack of Kremlin confidence in the leading Polish Communists.
Reports from Prague emphasized that a reputedly hard-line member of the Polish Politburo, Stefan Olszowski, led the Warsaw delegation to the Prague party congress, rather than party leader Kania.
Mr. Brezhnev met with Mr. Olszowski in Prague.
East European sources say Soviet officials are, indeed, showing signs of displeasure with Mr. Kania.
The sources add, as one put it privately April 9, that Polish Premier Jaruzelski "has clearly not lived up to Soviet expectations" that the East bloc's first uniformed head of government would effectively curb dissidence and reinforce party authority in Poland.
In the run-up to avowedly free elections preceding an extraordinary Polish communist congress, concern over the badly battered party is seen as central to Soviet thinking on the Polish crisis.
"We are told privately precisely what the Soviets say publicly on that score, " said one East European official. "Poland was, is, and will be a socialist country.
"I think it is safe to assume, in the end, there will be no compromise by the Sov iet Union on that issue."