European diplomats characterized the sanctions against Poland announced by President Reagan last night as relatively mild and said today that this reflected continuing resistance by the European allies to taking collective action against either Poland or the Soviet Union at this stage of the Polish crisis.
The European allies continue to favor a more cautious approach of issuing protests and warnings to the Polish government, the sources in several European capitals said. Decisions due in the near future on further food and financial aid could then be made contingent on Poland's response to Western demands that the military crackdown be eased and negotiations resumed with leaders of Poland's Roman Catholic Church and the Solidarity movement, some diplomats said.
The allies also continue to take "a less Soviet-oriented view" of the Polish crisis than the Reagan administration has, according to these sources, and are not ready under present circumstances to threaten or impose any sanctions against Moscow. Such moves should be kept in reserve, according to European diplomats, to deter direct Soviet intervention in Poland. Unless that occurs, most of the allies will prefer to respond to the crisis as a Polish and European problem, rather than as a superpower confrontation, they said.
European and American diplomats emphasized, however, that despite these differences, intensive consultations among the allies since the imposition of martial law in Poland have been more harmonious than those following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan two years ago and have produced significant agreement on some points of strategy also reflected in Reagan's speech.
Much of Reagan's language condemning the harshness of the Polish military crackdown, they said, echoed increasingly strong protests made in a number of European capitals and collectively by the 10 European Community countries in a protest Tuesday night to the Polish foreign minister in Warsaw. It said the 10 "consider that they must now express the growing concern shared by public opinion and governments about developments in Poland" and that "they denounce the grave violation of the human and civil rights of the Polish people which is implied in these reports."
While Reagan said U.S.-government food aid to Poland was being suspended until it could be shown that the food was not being diverted by Polish authorities, the community countries decided this week that they would continue such aid only if Poland firmly pledged that the food was reaching the Polish people. Even an 8,000-ton free gift of surplus beef from the European Community to Poland for Christmas has been held up while this assurance is being sought, officials in Britain, the current community president, said today.
More significant differences exist on the questions of stopping high technology exports to Poland and U.S. Export-Import Bank export credit insurance for the Polish government, but European diplomats pointed out that Poland is not doing much trading at the moment anyway. Referring to other sanctions announced by Reagan, they said Poland has no fishing rights in European Community waters that could be suspended and scheduled Polish airline flights had already been effectively cut off by the Polish authorities.
European and American diplomats said no specific demands for collective allied actions were made in the consultations culminating in a tour of European capitals this week by a group of U.S. officials headed by Undersecretary of State for European Affairs Lawrence Eagleburger. Instead, they said, U.S. officials presented options being considered by Washington and took note of the Europeans' reactions.
The fact that Reagan announced only unilateral U.S. actions, that they were aimed only at the Polish government and not the Soviet Union, and that they did not require any European response, reflected European reservations, they said.