GIVEN THE geopolitical facts of life, there may never be a time when any Polish government can enjoy the degree of security that other countries take for granted. Certainly the latest wave of anxiety over the possibility of a Soviet attack will not be the last. Yet there is something particularly disquieting about the developments that have prompted this new alarm. The more effectively the Poles struggle to create a new national life in their own image, it seems, the more costly--but also the more tempting --a Soviet intervention becomes.
A fateful turning point is coming up in a month's time. The Polish Communist Party is scheduled to open an extraordinary congress at which to consumate and formalize the new broadly democratic character of political life in the country. A party thus "renewed" could expect to settle Poland down and focus on the immense economic difficulties. A mature Soviet leadership would surely recognize this as the best ending from a Soviet as well as a Polish point of view.
To upset the Polish progress, or to keep the interventionist option alive, or simply to harass the Poles--who can tell just why?--the Soviets have seized on an ominous tactic. They have embraced a rump hard-line party faction in Katowice--a faction that has flowered precisely on account of the openness the Kremlin otherwise repudiates. The Katowice Forum could supply Moscow with the pretext for a campaign to stall or call off the party congress, or it could become the core of a group that, via Moscow's manipulation, might "invite" Soviet troops in. The emergency meeting of the Polish Communist leadership announced yesterday is grim evidence of the pressure the Kremlin is applying now.
As before, the Polish people have only certain resources for their self-defense. Their basic weapons are national pride and unity, the strength of their reformist will and purpose, and the essentially nonprovocative character of their program. The reformers insists, for instance, that Poland will stick with Warsaw Pact membership and Communist Party rule. Just last Friday, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, speaking at one of the principal forums (the International Labor Organization) to which Solidarity looks for sustenance, pledged to restrain new wage demands and strikes and to support any "rational" government economic program with "sacrifice and self-denial."
The question remains whether there are any further moves the West could make to influence what obviously is a continuing Kremlin debate on Poland's fate. American and European warnings of a broad political reprisal in the event of an invasion seem to have registered on the Politburo. Could not a timely display of allied and especially American readiness to restore more normal relations in Europe, if the Polish situation settles down, also make a difference? The firmness and lack of equivocation had and continue to have a very useful effect. But it is also necessary to ask if the Reagan posture of all-out, across-the-board, long-term pressure on Moscow gives the president the full range of tools he needs to serve all of his foreign policy goals.