Economy in Poland back in Soviet orbit

The Polish crisis, a year of martial law, and sanctions imposed by the West have combined to push Poland into its closest economic ties yet with the Soviet Union and its trading community.

During the 1970s, Poland led the East European states in seeking more commercial links with ''developed,'' i.e., capitalist countries and greater access to their superior technology.

Other East Europeans taking that line usually pursued it with greater prudence and caution. Poland, despite the warnings of some of its best economists, overreached itself, piling up debts to the West. Of the East-bloc countries, only the Soviets owed more.

The resulting crisis (of which the Edward Gierek government had been warned in the 1970s) and the near economic breakdown that broke in August 1980 meant that in the ensuing 18 months Poland became virtually totally dependent on the Russians to keep its economy afloat. Under martial law, Poland aligned its entire economy more closely with the Soviet economy and the bloc generally.

There were severe cutbacks in capital investment. Only new plants near completion could be finished. Scores of just-started or half-finished industrial units were abandoned.

Since World War II the Polish economy has been dependent to an uncomfortable degree on Soviet raw materials and support. Beginning in the summer of 1980, it became dependent as never before on Soviet cash and increased supplies of raw materials and consumer goods. East Europeans contributed emergency aid for consumers as popular dissatisfaction grew.

All of this might be termed ''survival'' after a fashion, but the help was crucial.

As the year wore on, the Soviets, with their own mounting economic problems and obligations to other East Europeans, who were also having difficulties, were unable to extend Poland much more direct aid as such. Instead, their assistance is taking the form of increased deliveries of raw materials to prevent more Polish industry being idled. It is to be paid for later in normal trading terms.

In addition, the Soviet Union and other allies agreed to complete some of the Poles' many mothballed projects. These, too, were to be paid for only in resultant products.

Negotiations are under way for the Russians to help complete 10 Polish factories; Hungary, at least 15; Czechoslovakia, 7; Bulgaria and Romania 5 apiece. Meantime, the Polish economy and trade are oriented more and more toward the Soviets.

Under present conditions, the Poles have no choice. Prof. Tadeusz Grabowski - dean of the economic department of the military political academy - said Dec. 7 that no one expected the economic restrictions imposed by the West to be so painful or to last so long.

Trade with Russia already accounts for more than one-third of the Poles' total turnover. Russia buys one-third of their exports and provides nearly 42 percent of imports.

At least 75 percent of all industrially strategic imports come from the Soviet Union. Without them many Polish enterprises would have ground to a halt in the last two years.

That the Soviet Union has provided these materials, at the same time accepting a Polish deficit that will reach 55 billion zlotys by year's end, indicates how far it was prepared to go to keep Poland in the alliance. Now it is clear the limits on handouts have been reached.

After talks in Moscow last month, the Polish deputy premier who heads the planning commission announced no new Soviet aid per se. Janusz Obodowski spoke instead of the urgent question ''of reorienting Polish exports toward the Comecon countries in general and the USSR in particular, rather than toward the capitalist world. . . .

''We must not forget we have to pay our debts to the USSR,'' he said, ''and we can only do this by increasing exports of expensive machinery and equipment.''

His Soviet counterpart, Deputy Premier Nikolai Baibakov, has been in Poland conferring on Polish capacities and capabilities for closer coordination of Polish-Soviet planning.

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