President Carter, making a vigorous defense of his human rights policy, issued a veiled warning to the Soviet Union tonight to stay out of Poland's internal affairs.
In a speech to the 100th anniversary dinner of the Polish National Alliance in this suburb of Chicago, the president pledged a policy of noninterference in Poland in the wake of the labor unrest there and added:
"We expect that others will similarly respect the right of the Polish nation to resolve its problems on its own."
Carter said the internal crisis in Poland brought on by the wave of strikes now appears "on its way to a peaceful and constructive resolution." However, his indirect warning to the Soviets came a day after administration officials made public their concern over recent and unusual Soviet military activity in the western Soviet Union and in East Germany near the Polish borders.
While U.S. officials say they do not believe there is an immediate threat of Soviet intervention in Poland, the decision to make public American concern over the Soviet military maneuvers reflected the wariness within the administration over Moscow's intentions since the granting of major concessions to Polish workers by the communist government in Warsaw.
Referring to the strikes that won the government concessions, the president said, "The events of recent weeks in Poland have inspired the world." He added that "we want to strengthen even further the human ties between our two countries."
Carter's two-hour visit to the Chicago area tonight and his speech to the Polish Alliance dinner at the organization's House of the White Eagle lodge, paid political homage to an important ethnic group in a state that Carter lost in 1976.
Although brief, the visit also represented a final public reconciliation between the president and Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne. Byrne, who supported Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's challenge to Carter all the way to the Democratic National Convention in New York, dutifully showed up at O'Hare International Airport tonight to greet the president on his first campaign trip to Illinois.
Addressing the Polish Alliance dinner, Carter did not refer directly to his Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan. But his main theme was a defense of his human rights policy, which has been criticized by Reagan but is popular with ethnic organizations.
"Poland has reminded us that desire for human rights and human dignity is universal," the president said in reference to the recent labor unrest.
"The Soviet Union may not like our human rights policy," he went on. "The generals, colonels, and dictators may not like it.Those who tyrannize others will always fear the ideas of freedom and human dignity. But the people in the villages, the factory workers, those who farm the land and populate the cities -- they care and they applaud and they pray that Americans will never abandon them."
Pledging never to back down from his support of human rights, which he called "the very soul of our foreign policy," Carter indirectly invoked one of his main campaign messages -- a suggestion that Reagan would make a reckless chief executive.
"We must continue to strengthen our defenses, as I have done every year since I became president, as I will continue to do in the future," he said. "But we cannot sap our strength by returning to the days when some would advocate a military solution for every international disturbance."
The president made this trip 24 hours before Reagan and independent candidate John B. Anderson were to meet in a nationally televised debate in Baltimore. He did not refer directly to the Sunday night debate in his speech, but told reporters here that he planned to watch it.
The president departed from his speech text to compare his heritage as a southerner with those of Polish-Americans and to say that he resented jokes aimed at southerners and jokes at Poles.
Carter was warmly although not enthusiastically greeted by the dinner audience of more than 2,000. Outside, several dozen Reagan supporters held signs extolling the GOP nominee as Carter's motorcade passed.
Late tonight the president flew east headed for Camp David.
On Monday, Carter is scheduled to take off on a two-day campaign trip to Illinois and the West Coast in an evident effort to blunt any initiative gained by Reagan or Anderson in the debate that he has refused to participate in.