While preparations are underway here for President Carter's visit on Dec. 1 Polish authorities are perhaps even more anxious about a less publicized visit by another American official scheduled just a few days before the President's anticipated arrival.
The other visitor is Commerce Secretary Juanita Kreps, who will meet with trade officials to discuss the prospects for a major increase in u.S. grain to feed livestock and hard Western cash to pay for it. The shortage of feed is contributing to a worsening shortage of meat which, in turn, is potentially the most volatile problem confronting the Communist Party leader Edward Gierek.
The Poles, according to sources here, want to roughly double their grain imports from the United States to a level of some five-to-six million metric tons next year.
The cost would also roughly double to about $500-$600 million.
While the United States has plenty of grain is "sympathetic" to the Polish situation, and would undoubtedly like to improve ties even further with most independent-minded people in the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, the problem is finding a legal way to pay for it.
Poland apparently would be able to finance about half of it through maximum credits with the Commodity Credit Corp., a subsidiary body of the Agriculture Department that provides terms more favourable than on the general market.
The Poles want even easier, longer-term credit for the rest, however, and U.S. sources say there is no clear answer yet whether it is legally possible to do this. Alsoso, it could open a floodgate of requests for similar treatment by other countries that may have even more dire needs than the Poles.
Between the visits of Kreps and the President. However, The Poles clearly are looking for some economic pay off in return for what is expected to be a warm reception for Carter.
Polish views on the President's trip are mixed.
There is some cynicism that the presence of some six million Americans of Polish decent in the United States has made the trip good domestic politics for Carter. Others wonder how much the inclusion of Warsaw in the four-continent presidential journey was linked to the Polish origins of Carter's national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Yet, the overwhelming view here seems to be that there is indeed a kind of special ethnic link and a traditional relationship between the two countries despite differing official ideologies.
"The authorities have great economic hopes from this visit, says a former education minister and government critic. Wladyslaw Bienkowski." "The president can count on an enthusiastic welcome. The people won't have to be herded to go to see him. Polish society is pro-American."
"Maybe one reason is that America is a long way away," the 70-year-old sociologist jokes. "Maybe if the Soviet Union were further away, we would like them more, too."
Both Polish and American officials here tend to see the Carter visit as reinforcing the general improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations that apparently has been under way for a few months, as well as reflecting two other important trends.
One is an American effort to encourage at least some independence and create some room for maneuver among Eastern European countries in their relations with the Kremlin, without provoking a potentially explosive situation.
The other is a generally Eastern initiative to follow the Soviet lead by using the West wherever possible to help ease the financial strain on Communist economies.
Though President Ford stopped here briefly in 1975, the expected visit of a new President indentified with human rights and a post-Vietnam, post-Watergate United States could spark a spontaneous demonstration of considerable warmth here, many observers believe.
Experienced diplomats believe this may be causing some anxiety in Moscow, but they add that Kremlin trust in Gierek into to expolit the visit and other potential economic advantages outweigh such concerns.
In addition, there are other problems that the Poles would like discussed, particularly disarmament. This point, made by Polish officials, continues to spark rumors - denied in Washington - that a summit meeting with Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev manybe arranged during the 22-hour Warsaw stopover.
The Poles are also anxious to talk to an energy-conscious President about joint coal gasification projects. Poland is rich in coal, but its foreign debts are so high that it has to export huge amounts to the point where some sources here say coal for domestic use may be rationed this winter.
For the Americans, there is heavy interest in relaxing Polish restrictions on family reunification and emigration cases. U.S. officials say the Poles are only letting some 2,000 persons a year emigrate. A figure the U.S. sources claim is far below the number that apply and only about one-fourth of the number allowed out annually in the early 1960s.