Kremlin indicates it can tolerate Polish reforms

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

The Soviet Union, although clearly convinced the Polish crisis is still a crisis, seems initially pleased at the outcome of Poland's emergency Communist Party congress.

Diplomats here argue there can be little doubt that future Soviet policy on the crisis will depend in large part on post-congress developments within Poland.

But in messages to the Polish leadership on the country's national day, Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, his premier, and the Soviet defense minister delivered the closest thing in many months to an unequivocal vote of confidence in the Poles.

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The messages did say Poland was still under Assault by "opponents of socialism" and otherwise "hostile" forces.

In a phrase that unsettled a few diplomats here, a telegram signed by both Mr. Brezhnev and Premier Nikolai Tikhonov added that as a member of East-bloc economic and military alliances, Poland "can firmly count on support" from Moscow and other neighbors.

But one senior Soviet official said privately: "In general, we assess [the results of] the Polish congress positively," adding he fully expected the Poles to work our their crisis for themselves.

"The party came through. It didn't split, and there was a danger of this," he said. "It retained a Marxist- Leninist basis as a ruling party."

He said July 22 reports that Polish airline personnel and dock workers had decided against planned strikes seemed "another encouraging sign."

This and other officials have made it clear they do not expect the Polish crisis to evaporate overnight, and that some strike activity may subsist. But one official remarked, "I think the Poles, themselves, will get tired of all the uncertainty, the [consumer] shortages, and will adopt a more reasonable approach.

"My feeling is that a process of stabilization is already under way."

In trying to gauge Soviet policy beyond such initial assessments, most foreign analysts point to a remark Viktor Grishin, the chief Soviet delegate, made at the end of the Polish congress. He said "life and practice" would ultimately show how successful the congress had been in tackling Poland's problems.

Yet private remarks on the congress by Soviet officials seemed to suggest that Poland's political situation is deemed less precarious than Moscow had earlier feared.

In a letter to the Polish communist leadership in June, the Soviets had expressed concern that "opportunists" in Poland might try to use the party congress as a platform for a "defeat [of] the Marxist-Leninist forces of the party, in order to liquidate it."

The Kremlin appeared particularly concerned that militant reformists might, in effect, win control of the Polish party. Instead, reports from Warsaw suggest a generally "moderate" outcome of the emergency session. Although some communist hard-liners lost their positions, not all did. And some extremists on the other side of the spectrum also lost out.

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