The image, in the Kremlin's jam-packed Palace of Congresses Feb. 24, seemed soberingly appropriate: Poland's Communist Party chief vowed to head off "counterrevolution" in his country without need for outside help . . . with Leonid Brezhnev and the rest of the Soviet leadership literally looking over his shoulder.
Polish leader Stanislaw Kania will fly home from the Soviet Communist Party congress here under pressure to make good on his pledge.
Diplomats here still assume that no one would be happier than Mr. brezhnev should the Polish Communists manage to sort out their problems for themselveS.
Polish sources here have been voicing a cautious, private optimism that their country's months-old crisis is finally easing. "There are no major strikes," one source said, adding that he had fingers tightly crossed over the new Polish prime minister's bid for a three-month moratorium on union disputes.
President Brezhnev, in his keynote address to the Soviet Communist Party congress Feb. 23, paid lip service to the Polish Communists' efforts at "redressing the critical situation . . . and striving to heighten the party's capacity for action."
Mr. Brezhnev also offered a surprisingly frank picture of his country's economic reasons for seeking lessened tension with the West -- a goal not likely to be helped much by any escalated Soviet involvement in the Polish crisis.
"The slowig of the detente process and the arms race . . . are no small burden for us," the Soviet leader said in surveying the Soviet and East-bloc economies.
But on balance, Mr. Brezhnev's address amounted to the toughest high-level Soviet position on Poland yet delivered.
It also amounted to confirmation of a bedrock principle long assumed by diplomats here: that if Moscow is finally convinced that the Polish Communists have lost control of the situation, direct Soviet intervention is possible.
In Poland, President Brezhnev said, "imperialist subversive activity" has helped "stimulate elements hostile to socialism. . . .
"Opponents of socialism supported by outside forces are, by stirring up anarchy, seeking to channel events onto a counterrevolutionary course."
although both Soviet and foreign analysts stressed that the Soviet President had explicitly mentioned Polish attempts to take the counteroffensive, gone from Mr. Brezhnev's speech were earlier Soviet expressions of confidence the efforts would necessarily succeed.
And in what was taken by most diplomats here as a statement of Soviet -- or Warsaw Pact -- determination to take matters into their own hands if Polish communist Party control were much further eroded, Mr. Brezhnev concluded:
"The history of world socialism has seen all sorts of trials . . . but communists have . . . invariably won.
"That's how it was, and that's how it will be.
"And let no one doubt our common determination to secure our interests, and to defend the socialist gains of our peoples."
Applause thundered through the hall.
Barely 24 hours later, a similar ovation greeted Stanislaw Kania's evident response.
although Soviet officials did not immediately release a full text of the Polish leader's remarks, foreign communist sources said he stressed Warsaw's alliance with the Soviet Union and other East-bloc countries and said he understood their jitters over the unrest in his nation.
Standing at the congress podium, with the Soviet leadership seated at the dais behind, Mr. Kania is reported to have said:
"We want to assure you and all our friends that we have the will and strength to prevent counterrevolution in Poland."