The Soviet Union implicitly arned today of Warsaw Pact intervention if the creation of communist Poland's independent trade union movement leads to a "counterrevolution" that it said would be inspired by Western "imperialists."
The barely veiled threat appeared in major Soviet newspapers, which published an account of an article from the Czechoslovak Communist Party newspaper Rude Pravo comparing the current "difficult crisis situation' in Poland with pre-invasion Prague in 1968.
The account appeared on the eve of a Polish Communist Party Central Committee meeting Monday advertised in the official Warsaw press as intended to purge antisocialist elements. It is seen as part of new leader Stanislaw Kania's effort to take full control of the party while reimposing discipline following the workers' turmoil.
Direct Soviet statements on the Polish crisis have been scarce since it erupted in August, giving added weight to the selection of the hard-line Czechoslovak article as a vehicle. According to the official Tass news agency, Rude Pravo stressed that "internal and external hostile forces" are seeking to turn Poland's political and economic turmoil into a "counterrevolution in one of the socialist states. [they] concentrate efforts on an insidious plan -- to set in motion and strengthen antisocialist agressive trade unionism."
However, the Soviet account of the Prague articel said, Polish Communists have marked out "a clear-cut line that cannot be overstepped" by these opponents, or "socialist, patriotic forces of Poland will do everything vitally necessary to protect and strengthen the revolutionary gains" made under the Communists.
The harsh warning closely resembled Kremlin formulations to justify the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, when Moscow unleashed its forces allegedly at the official request of "patriots" in the party there who accused Alexander Dubcek of trying to take the country out of the socialist camp.
Today's Soviet version of the Czechoslovak article asserted that "the hopes of agressive circles of imperialism to change the situation in the world in their favor, to restore lost positions through a policy of strength and blackmail lack of foundation whatsover."
Party leader Kania just averted a major strike last week in the lastest party face-off with Solidarity and other newly independent trade unions over crucial matters of political control of Poland's legal system. It is thought here that the Soviet decision to recount the Rude Pravo article is aimed in part at strengthening Kania's hand. Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev has strongly endorsed the former Polish secret police chief and Moscow has backed that up with major economic and food aid.
Foreign analysts have little doubt, however, that Moscow would dump Kania quickly if he wavered in his efforts to rein in the unions.
Brezhnev, Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov and Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko were themselves warned last week by Sen. Charles Percy (R-Ill.) that intervention in Poland would be a "castrophe" for world relations and sure to bring a concerted response from the incoming Reagan administration.
The Rude Pravo article indicates, however, that the Kremlin would invoke the "Brezhnev doctrine" and intervene if the Polish Communists lost control to the increasingly powerful independent unions.
Tass said Rude Pravo emphasized that "fraternal international assistance" by the Warsaw Pact in 1968 had thwarted imperialist counterrevolutionaries working through "right-opportunist forces." Dubcek was labeled a "right opportunist" during the invasion of Czechoslovakia and hard-line publications in East Berlin and Prague in recent days have said the same forces are seeking influence now in Poland.
The apparently calculated use of indirect voices could indicate Kremlin concern over taking a public position in a dangerously volatile situation. There also are detectable worries of inciting fiercely anti-Russian Poles to further party challenges.
However, Moscow has occasionally spoken openly about its grave concerns. Last week the government paper Izvestia warned that a threatened Polish rail strike "could touch on national and defense interests" and denounced the free unions for trying to "maintain the tense situation in the country." The strike was called off when Kania and the unions reached a compromise releasing two jailed union members.