The Soviet Union appears engaged in an intensive effort at damage control designed to scale down the scope and implementation of the Polish labor agreement. The accord contains a number of heretical provisions, including the promise of independent trade unions.
East European sources said consultations were under way between Moscow and Warsaw and the Polish leader Edward Gierek had met with senior Soviet officials within the past three days to discuss the situation.
The sources said the meeting was held on the Soviet-Polish border and that the Soviet delegation was led by Andrei Kirilenko, a senior Politburo member who frequently represents President Leonid Brezhnev. It was not possible to confirm this report.
The Soviet press continued to provide hints of Moscow's concern about the course of events in Poland. It has charged "Western inteference" in Polish affairs, perhaps to give the issue the character of a broader international conspiracy.
While the govenment news agency Tass reported tonight that there was an agreement between the Polish government and an interfactory workers' committee, analysts here pointed out that the Soviets have yet to inform their public that the agreement was approved by the Polish Communist Party Central Committee. Moreover, they noted that Gierek's name has not appeared in the Soviet press for the past three days, although the names of other Polish leaders have been published.
This may sound like an insignificant matter, but East Europeans take it as a sign of reservation and displeasure.
Senior Western diplomats say Moscow's aim at this stage is twofold; first, to reinforce the authority of the Polish party, badly shaken as a result of the seven weeks of unrest; second, to pressure the Polish leaders to circumscribe concessions granted to the strikers, especially those that hold a long-term potential threat to the party's dominant role.
Despite continued warnings, however, these diplomats believe there is room for compromise if the trade union movement, like the Polish Roman Catholic Church, accepts limitations on nonparty activity so that ultimate Soviet control in Poland is not challenged.
According to this view, a Kremlin already preoccupied with Afghanistan and beset by other internal and external problems may be willing eventually to accept a diluted accord between the government and the workers.
The tone of a growing number of commentaries on Polish developents, however, suggests that the Soviets are trying to make things more difficult for the supporters of independent trade unions and that the struggle over this issue is likely to continue.
One Tass commentary again attacked "antisocialist" groups in Poland and cautioned the leadership to keep "intact the firm foundation of socialism and the fundamental principle of the party's leading role in society."
It indicated that the Soviet Union had granted Poland additional credits for purchases of raw materials for its industries, including the food industry. fTass said, "The steady Soviet deliveries are of key importance for the Polish economy," The extent of Soviet emergency support was not indicated, and it was not clear if the Soviet aid referred to was the same assistance program announced last night in Warsaw.
Tass said, "Poland is now encountering serious, and in a number of cases, highly serious economic and social problems." It added that Soviet aid was "essential" to Warsaw "for overcoming these difficulties."
Tonight's commentaries again criticized Western trade unions for collecting money for Polish groups "which come out from antisocialist positions and which conduct subversive activities against the existing system."
One dispatch said unspecified Western circles, including some government leaders, were involved in "gross interference in Polish affairs and seek to export anticommunism to Poland and to impose Western ideological standards on the Polish people."