US reviews sanctions on Poland after Lech Walesa's call for aid
In the wake of Lech Walesa's Nobel Peace Prize lecture and renewed appeal for Western help, the Reagan administration is giving careful consideration to lifting US economic sanctions on Poland.Skip to next paragraph
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But the President may require further moves by the Polish government and a favorable domestic political reaction before deciding on such a course.
''The Walesa speech does introduce a new dimension,'' commented a high-level administration official, ''but we do not yet know what it means. We have not sorted things out and there is no consensus of views yet.''
Administration officials assess Mr. Walesa's lecture, delivered in Oslo in absentia, as balanced and statesmanlike. In it he called for a dialogue and reconciliation between the Jaruzelski government and the Polish people and suggested that, because Poland's economic crisis may have a serious impact in Europe, ''Poland ought to be helped and deserves help.''
The United States has already offered a small carrot to Poland by lifting the ban on fishing in American waters. In the face of opposition from the AFL-CIO, however, it has not actually granted a fishing quota to Poland. The US position is that Poland should negotiate with American firms and then apply for an allocation. But the administration is believed to want indications first from the Polish government that it will not hold trials of 11 leading members of Solidarity still in detention.
That is the demand of the AFL-CIO, which has exerted effective pressure on the administration to hold the line on sanctions unless the Polish government is more forthcoming. With Mr. Reagan wooing the vote of organized labor in the 1984 election, he is expected to be sensitive to any steps that risk alienating that support.
AFL-CIO officials, including president Lane Kirkland, are also weighing the Walesa lecture. But they point to the passages calling for release of the Solidarity detainees and abandonment of show trials. ''Yes, Walesa is saying drop the sanctions, but first he is saying let the Solidarity prisoners out of jail and don't hold trials,'' said Murray Seeger, the AFL-CIO's director of information. ''That is the price we believe should be paid before all the sanctions are dropped.''
''We also want the Polish government to open a dialogue with Solidarity,'' Mr. Seeger told the Monitor.
American officials say that Poland has not helped its case by refusing to act on the appointment of a US ambassador to Warsaw. The US had made an appointment but finally withdrew it because the Polish government held up the required approval.
''Operating with only a charge in Warsaw makes communication more difficult, '' said an administration official. ''We're willing to send an ambassador whenever they say they are ready to receive one. The ball is in their court.''
Among the factors being watched in the administration is whether Lech Walesa begins to play a meaningful role again. Administration officials believe that, by riding on the Nobel Peace Prize, he is trying to make himself relevant again. ''It is doubtful the regime will let him act as a mediating force,'' said an official, ''but we would like to see him play a more prominent role.''
State Department analysts believe that Walesa may be making something of a comeback because no one else has filled the vacuum and General Jaruzelski himself has not taken a stronger hand. Walesa had become the symbol of the Polish people's struggle for freedom but it was thought he was no longer relevant in a political sense.
The Polish government, for its part, does want the sanctions lifted, analysts say, but Jaruzelski does not wish to be beholden to Walesa. The dilemma for the Polish party leader is how to have a dialogue with the workers without the glaring public exposure that inevitably invites opposition and counterpressures from Communist Party hard-liners.
Similarly, it is difficult for Jaruzelski to be seen bowing to pressures from American labor unions. If the various players in the Polish drama, including the AFL-CIO, operated quietly and out of the limelight, anaylsts believe, it might be easier for Poland to find its way out of the current impasse and for the United States to provide economic help to Poland.
In the long run, say many Western diplomatic observers, it is in the US interest to lift sanctions, to agree to Polish membership in the International Monetary Fund, and to encourage Poland's natural ties with the West. Otherwise, they argue, the US risks driving Poland more and more into the Soviet camp.