The string of public White House warnings to Moscow against intervention in Poland reflects a desire to take away the element of surprise from Soviet planning for any would-be invasion as well as concern over the Soviet buildup.
In effect, administration officials say, the United States is publicly telling the Poles what it knows about the state of Soviet military preparedness to deny Moscow tactical surprise in launching any attack and to give the Poles as much warning as possible.
Administration officials acknowledge there are also some historical and political reasons for the continuing round of White House warnings to Moscow that have come from President Carter, press secretary Jody Powell and national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in the past week.
Officials say they are mindful of the criticism leveled at former president Lyndon Johnson when the United States, in 1968, failed to alert the world just before the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia. And they acknowledge their failure in not calling attention to Soviet preparations to invade Afghanistan in December, 1979.
Of all of these reasons, administration officials say the denial of tactical surprise may be the most important in the current situation. Indeed, this might help explain why the White House issued still another ominous official statement Sunday afternoon, declaring the Soviets appeared to have completed all the military preparations needed for a possible intervention.
Officials say the latest U.S. intelligence assessment over the weekend has, indeed, come to that conclusion. However, Sunday night was also the eve of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev's trip to India. While most analysts believe the Kremlin is not likely to intervene while the leader is away, senior officials say the Soviet president's trip would not necessarily be a guarantee of inaction if tactical surprise was being sought.
Pentagon officials yesterday said they had detected signs of military activity in more than 30 Soviet and Warsaw Pact divisions.