VICE PRESIDENT George Bush's trip to Poland responds to the post-martial-law "normalization" in Warsaw and puts American ties with the Communist regime back near where they were before Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski crushed Solidarity. The trip also sharpens the intertwined choices that both countries -- especially the Poles -- must make to carry their relationship forward.
The Polish government wants massive aid in the form of debt relief and new loans from its Western creditors -- to the American government Warsaw owes $2.4 billion of its $35 billion total debt. The creditors ask essentially that the Poles make serious economic reforms and reduce their still-great social tensions. But whether the regime's reform plans and capabilities meet the bankers' standards remains to be demonstrated. It is even more uncertain whether the regime will show the requisite respect for Solidarity, which, though formally banned, remains the workers' pride. Reform requires austerity, and there is every reason to believe the workers simply will not accept further sacrifices unless their chosen spokesmen of Solidarity have their role recognized and restored.
Gen. Jaruzelski needs Solidarity to give reform a fair chance, but shrinks from granting it a role that unavoidably challenges Soviet-imposed Communist Party rule in Poland. There lies his dilemma. He'd like the credit without the political risk.
The American choice is of much more modest dimensions, but still has its edge. In the American government, there is broad agreement on using the current "window" of Poland's "normalization" and Poland's need to encourage reforms that at once make Poland a better economic bet and give a boost to Solidarity. There's a narrow divergence, however, between the Treasury Department, whose special responsibility is to see that good money is not thrown after bad, and the State Department, which has a special interest in cultivating Polish autonomy within the Soviet bloc. This natural bureaucratic tension has given rise to apprehensions in some American quarters that the United States is being too tough on Poland. Gen. Jaruzelski, of course, fully agrees.
It is the Poles, however, not the Americans, on whom the principal burden rests. Poland is a country with which the West has strong historical and sentimental ties, but it is also a member of the Warsaw Pact. The government in Warsaw cannot reasonably expect the West to build nonparticipatory, antidemocratic socialism in Poland. That leaves the West with a requirement not to untie the economic and political strings from aid to Poland but to tie them and administer them with responsibility and care.