The military takeover in Poland 11 days ago has surely been the biggest international story of the month here, but judging by the Soviet media, it is merely another chapter in the ongoing annals of Western meddling.
After an initial spurt of satisfaction with Polish Premier Wojciech Jaruzelski's move, followed by a few days of concern over continuing strikes, the Soviet media has dropped the Polish crisis. The pages of Izvestia and Pravda in recent days have been taken up instead with congratulatory telegrams on the occasion of President Leonid Brezhnev's 75th birthday last weekend, his recent interview with NBC on arms-control issues, and various commentaries hailing Brezhnev's stands as statesman-like.
One of the main items on the national TV news last night was an interview with the editor of the Polish armed forces' newspaper, Zolnierz Wolnosci, who explained the Polish struggle against "antisocialist forces." In what has become a pattern, most of the news about Poland now is cast in terms of U.S. interference in Polish internal affairs.
Analysts here interpret the shift in Soviet dispatches as an indication that the continued unrest in Poland has produced new anxieties in Moscow. When in trouble, this argument goes, the Soviets turn to anti-imperialist propaganda.
The absence of hard news about Poland has led the Kremlin-watchers to read between the lines in search of clues of Soviet assessments and intentions.
Consider, for instance, the unusual decision by Brezhnev to respond to the questions cabled to him by Marvin Kalb of NBC on Dec. 4. This was before the imposition of martial law in Poland and the questions did not deal with that issue.
Analysts here say Brezhnev's response was designed at least in part to divert attention from Poland, the current focus of international debate, by talking about his hope for an agreement on limiting nuclear weapons in Europe.
Some omissions in the Soviet press are more curious than others. While other East European leaders were identified with their full titles in congratulatory telegrams to Brezhnev, reprinted in the official media here, the birthday message of the Poles carried only the names of Jaruzelski and Henryk Jablonski. The failure of Soviet papers to print Gen. Jaruzelski's title of party first secretary (as well as premier and defense minister) and Jablonski's of president was interpreted by the analysts as an attempt to dissociate the Polish Communist Party from the present military leadership.
The omission of Jaruzelski's title was linked by the analysts to increasingly explicit hints in the Soviet press that the Poles should quickly reorganize the party in the Marxist-Leninist mode.
The Soviet party newspaper Pravda, in an exclusive dispatch from Warsaw today, quoted Polish Communists as saying that "our first task is the strengthening of discipline and particularly party discipline." Where the party is passive, Pravda continued, "a vacuum develops which the enemy will immediately fill."
Implicit in this and other dispatches is the notion that the party has to be rebuilt and that it has to seek a political solution to the crisis.
Western diplomats say the Soviets want to see a greater party visibility in Polish affairs, presumably to forestall the reconstitution of Solidarity as an independent political force, or the emergence of a nationalistic military regime whose concept of socialism may be different from Moscow's.
Although for the first time a Soviet Bloc military force has appeared to push a communist party into a secondary role, "there was no other way out," as one Soviet source put it, since the party had practically collapsed.
However painful this temporary ideological aberration may be, Soviet sources say the overwhelming objective at the moment is to restore law and order and revive the economy.
What seems clear from Soviet accounts is that Moscow expects Jaruzelski quickly to restore full control. There also seems to be no likelihood that the Solidarity independent trade union will be permitted to function again as a political force.
Communist sources here say that Jaruzelski, in declaring martial law, had reached a point of no return and so have the Soviets, who had urged this course of action.
According to these sources, the fact that troops or militia have killed and wounded Poles has reduced chances for Jaruzelski to back off his course. The Soviets, in turn, are said to be committed to the present leadership since they have no other alternative. There can be no doubt, the sources said, as to Moscow's determination to keep Poland in the Soviet Bloc.
This means that the risk of a Soviet intervention remains a possibility. Senior Western diplomats say the Soviets are prepared for it, although they detect no signs here of any unusual military activity.
Difficulties with remaining resistance no doubt have produced new anxieties here. While Soviet dispatches suggest that the military regime is by and large in control of the country, an incident leading to more bloodshed could quickly inflame the Polish scene again.
Even without a direct military involvement, the crisis has inflicted staggering economic costs on the Soviet Union.
Some of these difficulties were publicized today in the newspaper Economic Gazette. It said Polish deliveries of coal and other materials this year have fallen by 50 percent or more. At the same time the Soviet Union has increased its deliveries of food and raw materials to Poland, including 16 million tons of oil. The Soviet Union, the paper said, "has not only met all its obligations on schedule but has provided additional deliveries in excess of the previously agreed levels."
A direct intervention would further divert Moscow from its preoccupation with the state of its own sagging economy and create new strains at a time of arms competition with the United States. It would also mean the end of detente, a cornerstone of Brezhnev's foreign policy.
Previous Soviet interventions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia took place before the great expansion of East-West ties inaugurated under the banner of detente. Another such invasion could lead to a new cold war more dangerous and threatening than that of the 1950s.
The public mood here suggests Soviets believe in the ultimate success of Jaruzelski's gamble. The question is, what next?
There is a difference of views here on the wisdom of limiting martial-law objectives in Poland to a restoration of order -- as Jaruzelski has publicly asserted -- rather than instituting outright authoritarianism.
Stalinist philosopher Pyotr Fedoseyev, 73, argued in Pravda recently that only those communist regimes which ruthlessly crush all opposition at the outset can avoid Poland's mistakes.
The trade union newspaper Trud, on the other hand, argued that martial law was introduced in Poland to restore order and put a stop to "counterrevolutionary activities of antisocialist forces, especially those which had penetrated Solidarity's leadership." This, Trud said, "should create conditions for a free and democratic evolution of Poland and permit healthy labor forces" to take charge of Solidarity.
Some Soviet sources suggest privately that a solution lies in a dialogue between the Communists and the Polish Roman Catholic church. But it is not made clear when such a dialogue could take place.