The Carter administration has ruled out a large-scale response to Poland's recent request for $3 billion in emergency economic aid and even a limited response is unlikely in present circumstances, official sources said yesterday.
Poland surprised Washington officials by the mammoth size of the request for aid, presented through its embassy here in the latter part of last month. In view of budgetary restraints and especially in the light of the presidential election returns, a response on the scale of the request will have to await the Reagan administration, officials said. Reagan's attitude is unknown, and his aides say that the question of aid to Poland is "under study."
Let by Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie and national security affairs adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, some within the administration have continued to press for at least a symbolic early response. In their view, this would display U.S. support for the hard-pressed Polish regime and its promises to Polish workers in settlement of the late summer strike.
Adding to the sense of urgency is a widespread assessment within the executive branch that unsettled political and economic conditions within Poland continue to pose a serious danger to the new union movement, including the danger of Soviet military intervention. But officials denied press reports earlier this week that U.S. agencies are predicting an imminent Soviet invasion.
The three options presented to Carter a few days ago after a government review would provide about $200 million each in additional assistance, according to the sources. One option would provide additional Commodity Credit Corp. credits for the purchase of agricultural commodities. Another option reportedly would postpone the repayment of some $220 million in CCC loans previously extended to Poland. A third option is said to involve the postponement of a similar amount of mixed governmental and private debt.
Those opposing such options within the government argued that these measures would not significantly affect Poland's serious economic predicament and that in the absence of basic reforms the aid would be quickly dissipated.
Rather than go forward with any of these plans at present, according to officials, Carter decided several days ago to launch a process of consultation with the European allies, several of which are closely involved with Poland economically and politically.
The president discussed the Polish problem in general terms with West Chancellor Helmut Schmidt on Thursday, according to White House officials. Muskie is to conduct further talks when he goes to a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting in Brussels in about three weeks, officials said.
State Department spokesman John Trattner, confirming the decision to defer action, said no announcement about Polish aid can be expected in the next three weeks or so. Trattner said the aid request from Poland "remains under discussion in the U.S. government and other governments concerned."