Looking Eastward

Westerners - accustomed as they often are to think in terms of ''them'' vs. ''us'' when it comes to East-West relations - would be remiss in overlooking the importance of continuing and expanding economic and cultural ties with the nations of Eastern Europe.

The Eastern European countries - Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and, outside the Soviet axis, Albania and Yugoslavia - are communist nations, although they differ sharply in how they apply their ideology to internal economic and political affairs. Hungary, for example, has gone far in developing free-market incentives. Heavily industrial and technological East Germany has close financial and trade links with West Germany. Czechoslovakia's conservative party leaders have tended to march in step with Moscow on calls for closer Eastern bloc economic integration with the Soviet Union.

In short, Eastern European nations, for all their ties with the Soviet Union in the Warsaw (military) Pact and Comecon - the 10-nation communist trading bloc - represent a varied assortment of nations. They should be viewed by Western nations individually, each on its own terms, rather than as part of some implacably hostile, anti-Western, monolithic whole.

This would seem a propitious moment for Western nations to consider carefully their links with Eastern Europe, what with the adjournment of the Comecon summit meeting at Moscow this week. It was the first to be held in 15 years.

Although the Eastern Europeans are slowly coming back from recession, they still face major challenges: large foreign debt; inefficient industries; energy shortages; limited food supplies; backward technologies.

The peoples and nations of the West have a definite stake in the well-being and progress of the peoples and nations of Eastern Europe. The Eastern Europeans are still part of a larger European culture that goes back centuries before communism ever became part of the global scene. Millions of Americans are related to Eastern Europeans. Moreover, without being naive about the intentions of Warsaw Pact military divisions, it is well to note that Eastern Europe's prosperity is of long-range advantage to the West. The better off the East Europeans, to an extent, the greater the political and diplomatic stability in Europe. The East Europeans, after all, have families, children in schools, jobs to go to - in short, all the elements of day-to-day life that lead to goals for a better life. The West can surely nurture such goals while still maintaining its legitimate security considerations.

The Comecon meeting adjourned on a note that will not be altogether happily welcomed by all Eastern Europeans. The Soviet news agency Tass said the economic document covered guidelines for the ''further development and deepening of economic, scientific, and technical cooperation'' among Comecon members. If that means mutual links for regional job creation, incentives for new industries, and so forth, well and good. But if, as seems more likely, that means pressure for stepped-up integration of Eastern-bloc nations into Soviet economic planning, that is not so good for the East Europeans.

The Soviets, for their part, have wanted more trade links within the East-bloc alliance, as contrasted with increasing trade links with the West. They have wanted greater energy and technological self-sufficiency for the East bloc - an ''independence'' that ties regional economies to Soviet oil and natural gas deliveries. And they have wanted greater emphasis on high technology - but high-technology items that benefit Moscow.

The United States and other Western nations should continue to seek close trading ties with Eastern Europe in general. And, in particular, Congress should join the Reagan administration in renewing most-favored-nation trading status with Romania and Hungary.

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