The West does not yet have a common view of the events that led up to the Dec. 13 declaration of martial law in Poland. And there has been no allied attempt to forge one.
The United States view, apparently based largely on military intelligence, is that the Soviet Union virtually orchestrated Warsaw's imposition of martial law.
The view of those who trust more in the analysis of the Polish Roman Catholic Church -- including a number of diplomats in European foreign ministries -- is that although there was general Soviet pressure for a Polish crackdown, the specific decision was Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's own doing as an act of self--preservation.
In one sense this divergence about what is by now past history is academic. But it feeds conflicting estimates about the value and impact of economic sanctions against the Soviet Union. And it makes allies uneasy about their partners' judgment in a very sensitive and volatile situation.
The picture that emerges from conversations with American and European officials in Geneva, Bonn, and Brussels looks like this:
In the US view the Soviet Union exerted strong pressure on Polish leaders to crack down on Solidarity over a long period of time. Specifically, there was heavy Soviet participation in planning for a military takeover. Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. has said publicly that this included the printing in the Soviet Union of flyers announcing martial law in Poland months before it was actually declared.
This also included, the Americans believe, a visit to Warsaw last March in which high-ranking Soviet KGB officers asked the Polish military to take power. In addition, the Americans believe, there was a Soviet ultimatum to the Poles before the Dec. 13 action.
The intelligence the US is relying on for this reconstruction of events seems to have come primarily from a high-ranking Polish general who, according to ABC News, defected to the West in late November.
The American intelligence is considered sound, but limited in two respects: the sharp drop in quality of intelligence after the general's defection, and the lack of any political intelligence corroborating the military intelligence.
The lack of the same quality of intelligence in the weeks immediately preceding the declaration of martial law also seems to mean that there is no hard confirmation of the specific Soviet ultimatum assumed by Washington.
The lack of corroborating political intelligence raises some questions, since neither in Czechoslovakia in 1968 nor in comparable previous situations has the Soviet Communist Party Politburo or party secretary ever been known to entrust an order for a radical change of government in a client state to KGB or military emissaries.
In any case, some West German conservatives now believe in the American scenario wholeheartedly. They think that Soviet preparations for the Polish military takeover included the signing of the Soviet-West European gas pipeline contract and Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev's visit to Bonn (both in November). The object, they believe, was to lull West Germany and deceive Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.
They especially regard the hasty East German scheduling of the long-postponed East-West German summit in December as an attempt to lock Schmidt into a position where he would not be able to criticize martial law in Poland. (The military takeover in Poland caught him by surprise on the last day of his visit to East Germany.)
The alternative reconstruction of events, coming primarily from the Polish Roman Catholic Church, proceeds from the premise that in declaring martial law Jaruzelski acted to preempt a coup planned for two days later by hard-line Polish Communists more beholden to Moscow and more determined to exact revenge on Polish society for the spontaneous pluralism of the previous 16 months. (It is not clear in either version if the threat of a hard-line coup might, in fact, have been linked to a Soviet ultimatum.)
Among the many imponderables in evaluating the rival theses are these questions: Has the Polish Roman Catholic Church been over-eager to perceive in Jaruzelski the moderation it desperately wants to see to assure the church's continued role in Polish life? Have the Americans been over-eager to perceive in Jaruzelski the proof of Soviet and Communist perfidy?
These queries - and any doubts about the American scenario - have been found by a number of interested Europeans to be ''taboo'' subjects with the Americans. The feeling is that anyone who questions the limits of US intelligence and analysis - or tries to explore why European intelligence doesn't corroborate the American reconstruction - is suspected of being disloyal.