NATO ambassadors agree to use more muscle on Poland

Western Europeans paraded their new ''measures'' - they shrink from calling them ''sanctions' - against repression in Poland at a NATO ambassadorial meeting in Brussels Feb. 3.

The measures against Poland and the Soviet Union are to be announced individually by each country in the next few days.

Monitor contributor Gary Yerkey reports from Brussels that the sanctions were taken, according to a NATO spokesman, because repression is getting worse in Poland. There has been ''no progress,'' the spokesman said, on the three NATO demands of Jan. 11: an end to martial law; release of detainees; and resumption of the domestic dialogue in Poland.

The spokesman said there were even ''some indications that (Polish) authorities are even less interested in negotiations with the (Roman Catholic) Church and Solidarity.''

New steps to be taken by European countries include reduced Soviet participation in oceanic cross trade; suspension of transport talks with the Soviet Union; suspension of meetings, visits, and bilateral economic, commercial , technical, scientific, and cultural agreements; curtailment of credit facilities; elimination of exceptions to the Western (COCOM) ban on technology transfer to Poland; and insistence on full reciprocity with the Polish airline LOT.

West Germany, France, Britain, and some other countries have already canceled LOT flights to their cities in retaliation for Polish cancellation of Western European flights into Poland. These steps were announced by a NATO spokesman after the meeting.

A senior American official said further that several European nations had announced at the closed NATO meeting a suspension of negotiations with the Soviet Union on opening new Soviet consulates in their countries, and that there might also be higher West European tariffs on nonessential (i.e. nonenergy) Soviet imports.

Noting that only one or two countries were not moving on sanctions, the official stated, ''Virtually every government here today announced new measures taken.''

Whether Washington will, in fact, be satisfied with these measures remains to be seen. The US sharply increased its pressure for tougher and accelerated European sanctions following ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's criticism of Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig's Jan. 26 meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko; the Haig-Gromyko meeting itself; and the simultaneous failure of assembled European Community foreign ministers to agree on any dramatic joint measures.

US pressure on Western Europe took the unusual form of saying ''if you don't do more, we ourselves will do more.'' The ''more'' was broadly hinted to be applying to European licenses on American companies Washington's embargo on US technology exports, which represent a small percentage of the multibillion-dollar gas pipeline deal. The final American decision on whether to go this far has not yet been made, American and West German officials in Bonn believe.

At the same time that the US government was increasing pressures on its allies for more economic sanctions, it was reassuring them that it was not going to pull down the whole shaky financial structure of East-West trade. It did this by paying off $71 million of overdue Polish payments to American banks.

This move effectively forestalled any of the banks declaring Poland in default and setting off a run on the whole $27 billion Polish debt to the West.

Significantly, all of Europe is united in resisting - barring a direct Soviet occupation of Poland - economic sanctions that would bite into already contracted Soviet-Western trade.

The initial rhetoric from Paris and London after the Polish declaration of martial law condemned the Soviet Union as strongly as did American rhetoric.

But France, unlike West Germany, signed on for its share of the gas pipeline deal even after martial law in Poland. And even Britain opposes annulling existing contracts as much as West Germany does.

A further US-European dispute concerns the Helsinki Act follow-up meeting to be resumed in Madrid next week. Washington wants to adjourn this Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) meeting indefinitely after a few days of criticizing Polish repression.

Europe wants to continue the meeting, as a forum in which to keep discussing Poland.

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