The Soviet Union has delivered a new warning to Poland: The thousands of Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops poised on Polish borders since late last year are not just for show.
Put differently, the apparent grace period offered the Polish Communist Party leadership by a Warsaw Pact summit here Dec. 5 should not be seen as indefinite.
These, seasoned Moscow analysts maintain, are the central messages of recent Soviet press offerings on the Polish labor crisis, and of a surprise Jan. 13 visit to Warsaw by the Russian officer in charge of East-bloc military forces.
Most diplomats remain firmly convinced the Kremlin would like to avoid military intervention -- and certainly an all-out Soviet invasion -- in Poland.
But increasingly, some form of escalated Soviet action is seen as likely unless the Polish Communist Party can deal convincingly with renewed challenges from Polish labor groups.
The party in Warsaw, moreover, seems to be getting the message. Reports from Poland in recent days speak of a get-tough policy toward the nascent labor union movement, in particular toward pro-farm demonstrators in the southeast of the country.
The question, now: Will such an approach work?
The Kremlin still seems to have its doubts.
Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, even while delivering something of a vote of confidence in the Polish leadership late last December, saw fit to add a time frame. He made it clear he hoped all could be in order "very quickly."
The official Soviet news media, since the turn of the year, have revived warnings of a potential "counterrevolution" in Poland. That is not a very nice thing to be accused of hereabouts.
Analysts here note that many other reports were attributed to Polish newspapers or officials, and thus less significant than unilateral Soviet declarations.
A number of the reports carried in the soviet press since the December summit have also hinted that Moscow sees nothing inherently wrong with the new Polish labor movement.
But some semantic acrobatics seem involved here. The Soviets have been making it clear that the Poles' union organizations are acceptable only as long as they don't act like unions in the West: that is, as long they avoid "politics" and accept the ultimate primacy of their nation's Communist Party.
Thus the Soviet news agency Tass, in referring to independent Polish labor unions, is careful to put quotation marks around the word "independent."
And without frontally criticizing workers -- something with which the USSR's "people's media" seem distinctly uncomfortable -- Moscow newspapers have still managed to mirror revived official concern here over revived labor unrest of Polish unions.
The reports speak of (allegedly Western-controlled) dissidents in Poland, accusing them of insidious political activity under the cover of the new unions.
Yet viewed from Moscow, the clearest sign of Soviet concern since the Warsaw Pact summit seemed to come in a brief Tass item carried Jan. 14 by the Communist Party organ Pravda.
Marshal Viktor Kulikov, the report said, had met in Warsaw Jan. 13 with Polish Communist leader Stanislaw Kania and other top officials.
The meeting was described as "cordial and friendly." But Mr. Kulikov is the USSR's second-ranked uniformed soldier and the commander in chief of Warsaw Pact forces.
Moscow analysts saw little doubt that he had dropped into Warsaw for more than pleasantry, and that the announcement of the visi t signaled escalated Soviet pressure on Poland.