The top leaders of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies ended an extraordinary, top-secret meeting in Moscow yesterday that gave some breathing space to Poland's beleaguered leadership but defined clear limits for the political change taking place in the Eastern European country.
The unusual meeting followed a series of warnings from the West against military intervention in Poland. It appeared designed to calm international tensions and to establish a united stand among the Communist leaders of Eastern Europe on the Polish issue.
A communique issued at the close of the gathering and broadcast throughout Eastern Europe said the Warsaw Pact leaders were confident Poland would be able to "overcome [its] present difficulties" and "assure the country's development along the socialist path."
The communique said the seven countries at the summit meeting favored "renouncing the use or threat of the use of force" but it left open the option by saying that the "Polish people can firmly count on the faternal solidarity and support" of its Warsaw Pact allies.
Analysts in Washington quickly noted that the "support" mentioned was not limited to the economic sphere, leaving open the possibility of Warsaw Pact intervention should the Polish Communist Party appear to be losing control to the country's independent union movement.
Attending the Kremlin meeting were the top Communist Party and government leaders of the Soviet Union, East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland. It was Polish party leader Stanislaw Kania's second reported trip to Moscow since he replaced Edward Gierek at the height of the country's crisis in September.
The summit was the first such emergency meeting of Soviet Bloc leaders since the late 1960s, and recalled similar meetings held prior to Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. The key contrast to that crisis is that the Czech leadership clearly was at odds with others in the alliance while Kania still appears to enjoy their support.
As the bloc leaders outlined their position on Poland, Communist Yugoslavia, not a member of the Warsaw Pact, warned against "any foreign interference" in Poland, adding that "an atmosphere of tension was being created" in Eastern Europe.
In the Yugoslav statement, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "All interference and pressures from abroad under any pretext would have unimaginable negative consequences . . . in Poland."
The Moscow declaration came against a backdrop of new warnings to Poland's independent unions and an unusual declaration by the labor movement's leading group, Solidarity, that there were no strikes going on in Poland at the movement and none planned.
The Solidarity statement, carried by the official Polish news agency, said, "Publishing this declaration in the present complicated situation in the country is a demand of the movement. It should remove all doubts concerning the intentions of Solidarity and prove that accusations that the union is sowing anarchy are groundless."
The Polish party newspaper, Trybuna Ludu, earlier in the day had clearly outlined a theme that has emerged during this tumultuous week of the Polish political confrontation: the country's Communist leadership is committed to political change to accommodate the demands of workers who began a series of strikes in Gdansk almost five months ago. At the same time, the paper said, these changes cannot be allowed to put the Communist Party's control of the country in jeopardy -- the point also clearly made in the Moscow declaration.
The Polish leaders "are . . . limited by Poland's international commitments, by our security and development interests, bound by cooperation with the Soviet Union and other fraternal countries," Trybuna Luda said. "The party has not only a duty, a moral and political right to say aloud today: 'Enough of chaos, enough of unrest'."
There was no immediate comment on the Moscow declaration from the Carter administration, which has had much to say in recent days about the grave dangers that would flow from Soviet military intervention in Poland. An administration source said Carter and his senior advisers decided early yesterday, before word of the Moscow meeting, to reduce official rhetoric on the subject for the time being.
Washington analysts of the Soviet Bloc interpreted the Moscow meeting as the most formal and public manifestation of the Kremlin's concern about the situation in Poland.
The Polish Communist Party is being given a chance to reassert its authority, with the backing of party leaderships in Moscow and the neighboring states, according to those analysts, but if that effort fails, the meeting may turn out to be a landmark on the road to Soviet military intervention.
"Poland's party leadership has been given a light pat on the back for its Communist solidarity, with an implied admonition to 'prove it," said a U.S. analyst. He added that "a decision to intervene militarily has been put off further into the indefinite future, but the capability has not diminished."
Arnold Horelick, a senior Rand Corporation staff member who previously was the Central Intelligence Agency's top analyst of Soviet affairs, said a high-level meeting of Communist leaders is "one of the tickets that would be punched on the way to military intervention." On the other hand, he added, such an event by itself would not appear to tip the scales for or against outside military action, and the communique "doesn't sound like the kind of statement that is issued as the troops march forward."
Horelick said it might be significant, and somewhat reassuring for the immediate prospects, that the communique did not charge that "antisocialist" elements from the West instigated the Polish troubles. Such a claim probably would be among the central charges used to justify military intervention by Poland's Communist neighbors.
Kania apparently flew to Moscow Thursday within 24 hours of the end of a three-day meeting of his party's policy-making Central Committee at which four hard-line figures were removed from the ruling Politburo, Kania was shown on Soviet television last night looking serious, although other leaders, including Czechoslovak President Gustav Husak and Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, were smiling, according to reports from the Soviet capital.
Also at the meeting were East Germany party chief Erich Honecker, Romanian President and party leader Nicolae Ceausescu, Hungarian party leader Janos Kadar and Bulgarian President and party leader Todor Zhivkov all accompanied by large delegations.