East European leaders, with scant encouragement from Moscow or the West, are hoping for some revival of detente. But they may be largely whistling in the dark.
At this point, they admit to little optimism that the Stockholm conference will reduce their concerns over superpower tension.
''This is an American election year,'' a top East European official close to the superpower hot line remarked to this writer.
And this is how President Reagan's speech Monday - in which he talked of a new relationship with Moscow - is regarded as the 35-nation conference convenes in the Swedish capital. But the East Europeans realize that Moscow sees Reagan's new attitude as aimed at the American public in an election year, and at the Western peace movement.
East Europeans welcome the Stokcholm meeting, just as they did its forerunner eight years ago in Helsinki. They are relieved that the Soviet's perennial foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko, will hold some kind of talks with American Secretary of State George Shultz.
To some extent, they are more optimistic about talks Gromyko may have with West Europeans, since these could take the rough edges off the US approach.
But all the East Europeans are viewing the outlook gloomily. The Czechoslovaks and the East Germans must explain to their citizens the installation of new Soviet missiles in response to NATO's new cruise and Pershing II missiles. Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria - to their infinite relief - are still immune to installation of SS-20 missiles, but may not remain so.
The Poles above all are planning to take a strong mutual arms-reduction line in Stockholm. They indicated before Christmas that they are likely to revive a plan to make Central Europe a nuclear-free zone. The Vienna talks on conventional arms reductions now in suspense were to some extent a substitute for the general idea of reduced armaments in the area embracing both Germanys, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.
In the meantime, a no-concessions statement from Moscow Monday only confirmed a Soviet belief that the US is ''not serious,'' despite softer tones now coming from the White House.
Furthermore, East Europeans think that without a prior US and Western agreement to pull back on cruise and Pershing missile installation in West Europe, the Soviets will not return to Geneva for strategic arms reductions talks or to Vienna for talks on conventional arms.
''We don't want an escalation of missiles in our countries,'' said the East European source. ''But we believe there was - given a certain quid pro quo in the counting - enough parity and balance to cause neither side any serious misgiving.
''The Russians, it must be admitted, did make clear their position before NATO's decision to go ahead regardless with its new missiles,'' he said.
''There can be no going back on that. Concessions, if we are to talk about that, must come first from the Western side.''