Polish authorities vent discontent over continued US sanctions
Vienna — Polish anger at the continuance of United States sanctions, displayed in last week's sharp attacks on the Reagan administration, reflects in part an official sense that Poland has been unfairly treated by the West.
Whatever the merits of the argument, behind it is painful awareness on the part of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's government that without the lifting of US sanctions, the Polish program for economic recovery has only scant chance to get started.
Warsaw sees as unfair Washington's reluctance to meet what the Poles regarded as a tacit understanding that, once Polish political prisoners were amnestied, sanctions would be terminated.
When the amnesty was announced in July, Washington called it a small step, but one that was in the right direction.
The US removed a few minor sanctions against Poland and said that once the amnesty was fully and reasonably implemented, the US would lift major sanctions.
Of most concern to the Poles are the American refusal to extend commodity and trade credits to Poland and to allow Poland to be readmitted to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The essence of the Polish complaint is that the US is not living up to its word, although Poland has freed all its political prisoners in the six weeks since amnesty was instituted.
The amnesty covered a host of minor civil offenders as well as the political prisoners. The official total for the latter was 652, of whom all but 22 have been released. Those freed included the most prominent figures of the political opposition.
The remaining 22, according to an official statement Sept. 18, include two former Solidarity leaders facing allegations of treason, a charge not covered by the amnesty, and 20 persons charged with criminal, nonpolitical offenses. (Two are union activists who were amnestied but rearrested for defying the ban on public speaking on the Solidarity anniversary, Aug. 31.)
In the US view, the amnesty still has not been fully observed. Until the US feels it is being observed, the Americans say their opposition to Poland's return to the IMF stands.
There are semantic issues on both sides. Reportedly some of the 20 are being held for offenses such as the alleged theft of printing materials (for illegal propaganda purposes). To that extent, therefore, their detention is arguably ''political.''
But the Poles insist the amnesty has been both ''reasonable'' (to use Washington's terminology) and ''full,'' especially in the sense that it included the four workers' Self-Defense Committee (KOR) leaders and the seven leading Solidarity figures facing trial.
The trial against the KOR defendants had in fact opened but was dropped following the amnesty. This move surprised both Poles at large and most outside observers who had expected the Jaruzelski government to exclude its most radical opponents from the amnesty.
That they were not was seen as a move of considerable political courage, because the leadership was for some time under pressure, from outside Poland as well as from within the Polish Communist Party, to ensure the removal of this hard-core opposition from political life.
Considerable frustration may therefore be seen behind last week's onslaught on the Reagan administration, since - one may be sure - the hard-liners are also making capital out of Washington's continuance of sanctions.
To that extent, the delay must be seen as militating against General Jaruzelski's own position. But thus far the Russians have - however reluctantly - left him to handle Poland's crisis and the government's desperate quest for credibility at home in his own way.
In an interview with this writer in April, Jaruzelski rejected any idea that his attitude over the political prisoners would be influenced by demands from the US.
But he doubtless would claim that, since the amnesty, other US desiderata have been met: i.e., with new unions and vis-a-vis the Roman Catholic Church. A real dialogue might not yet exist with the latter, but the government has made it possible for the church to proceed with its fund to aid private agriculture.
The unions are not, of course, in any sense a restoration of the Solidarity structure. But in law they are independent of government.
Already this year they have shown some clout in such previously politically sensitive areas as wages and prices.
One union leader, Alfred Miodowicz, spoke last week of their program of ''socialism without defamations.'' It recognized the Communist Party's ''leading role'' and its policies because these were ''suited to the workers' interests.''
But one of the unions' major tasks, he said, would be to monitor implementation of the agreements reached in August 1980 between the government and Solidarity.
That, obviously, excludes the politicized aspects of the Gdansk accord. But there remain numerous concessions over social and normal trade union practice. Not all of these have yet been carried through, because of the country's bankrupt economy.
A solitary bright spot for the Warsaw government at this juncture is the expectation that this year's harvest will prove one of the best since World War II. The modest 22 million tons of grain in 1983 forced Poland to draw heavily on its thin hard currency reserves to pay for 5 million tons of farm and food imports.
Even if the 1984 crop removes this kind of pressure, a general recovery is out of the question as long as access to new Western credit is denied to Poland, as it still is under the US sanction.
Another major American sanction is suspension of most-favored-nation tariff treatment on Polish exports. Its renewal would provide valuable trading relief. But only World Bank and IMF membership can unlock the fresh flow of credit that might revive the economy.
To many Western observers it seems evident enough that Poland's economy must deteriorate further in real terms while that opportunity remains withheld. The sanction appears to ensure that Poland will become even more closely integrated into the Soviet bloc's economy than it now is, following four years of crisis and severed financial ties with the West.
Most of America's European allies see such an alignment as not in the West's best interests. They would prefer to see Poland in the IMF for political reasons and because it would help foster stability that is in the interest of the country's Western creditors.