East German Communist Party leader Erich Honecker signaled here today that the pause in pressure on Poland's government is continuing, but he gave no clues about steps the Warsaw Pact might take if unrest begins again.
In a five-hour speech opening the 10th congress of East Germany's ruling party, Honecker made only a brief reference to the political "difficulties" in Poland. He noted that his party had declared its "solidarity with Polish Communists and patriots who seek to defend and strengthen socialism in their country."
Honecker's speech was viewed here as even milder than Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev's remarks to the Czechoslovak party congress Tuesday and much more moderate than the sharp warnings issued to Polish leaders Monday by Czechoslovak party leader Gustav Husak.
Considering the East German leadership'steady preoccupation with developments in Poland since last August the references today were viewed as the minimum required on the subject and indicated that the breathing spell that began for the Polish government last Tuesday is still in effect.
Brezhnev told the Czechoslovak congress that he believed the Polish leadership could overcome its problems. This was followed later by an announcement that joint Soviet, Polish, Czechoslovak and East German military maneuvers had ended.
At Honecker's side today for the start of the East German congress was Soviet Politburo member Mikhail Suslov, the Moscow party's chief theoretician. Earlier it had been thought that brezhnev would come here from Prague to attend the meeting. His absence was taken by some observers as evidence of Soviet desires to reduce tensions while the Polish authorities made a fresh attempt to work out its differences with the national labor organization Solidarity.
The East German leader, noting that "the truest expression of friendship is that which manifests itself in a complicatead situation," said in his speech that "we all know about the serious difficulties against which the Polish United Workers [Communist] Party is struggling." He also referred to Poland's pledge to a meeting of Warsaw Pact countries in Moscow last December that "Poland was, is and remains socialist."
Evidently, Western observers said the Soviet Union and its allies were waiting to see whether the intense pressure of the last few weeks would result in tough measures to restore order in Poland. On Friday, the Polish legislative assembly adopted a resolution requested by Premier Wojciech Jaruzelski urging workers not to strike for a two-month period.
Western diplomats speculated on a number of possibilities to explain the softer line. One theory was that Jaruzelski, a general who also holds the post of defense minister and commands loyalties in the armed forces, arranged for the breathing spell with the Soviet rulers earlier in the week. Another was that the pause had been worked out in secret talks in Prague between Brezhnev and Stefan Olszowski, a hard-liner who represented Poland at the Czechoslovak congress.
Western sources in Berlin have stress repeatedly this week that there is no evidence that Soviet troops and communications equipment committed to the recent maneuvers have been pulled back.
Honecker used the occasion of the congress to focus on East-West relations and to respond indirectly to U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger's and West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt's call last week for new and modern armaments for Western Europe.
Schmidt, in his annual state of the nation address to the West German parliament Thursday, said that Soviet forces in Eastern Europe had been built up to a point where the West had to respond.
In the first major communist reaction, Honecker warned that this development inevitably would affect relations between West and East Germany and could even "endanger what has already been achieved" -- a hint that movement toward greater contacts could be set back.
Observers said it was significant, however, that the East German chief made no mention of conditions outlined last fall for further improvement of relations with Bonn.
Honecker and his party have a strong vested interest in continuing to relax relations with West Germany. Agreements have greatly increased contacts that East Germans have with the West and have been very popular. But a new European arms buildup would imperil this development.
Observers said the East German leadership is attempting to put Schmidt in a squeeze between the Reagan administration, which wants upgrading of Western armaments, and the left wing of Schmidt's Social Democratic Party, which is opposed.
Neues Deutschland, the East German party newspaper, gave prominent display this morning to remarks of Social Democratic provincial leader Erhard Eppler against stationing U.S. nuclear missles in West Germany.
"The day is coming when we just have to say it short and to the point -- no," Eppler was quoted as saying.