After a little more than two weeks of martial law, there is evidence from official sources and published accounts here that the situation in Poland has passed its first crucial phase and that the Kremlin is satisfied that the internal Polish crackdown has not led to a disruption in detente with Western Europe.
For the moment, the Soviets seem relieved that Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's military government finally has "turned the course of events" in Poland. If ultimately successful -- and Western envoys say ranking Soviet officials have hinted that chances are better than 50-50 -- the general's gambit holds out promises of sparing the Soviets from disaster.
One new aspect of the current situation is a massive Soviet propaganda campaign aimed at documenting alleged U.S. complicity in inspiring and organizing the Polish turmoil of the last 18 months.
Some analysts here believed that Moscow is now building a case that foreign interference was the cause of the crisis. This is seen as indicating continued unease about its eventual outcome. But the analysts also see the campaign as preparation for possible Soviet intervention should Jaruzelski's move fail.
The propaganda drive may also be designed to blunt the edge of U.S. sanctions and reduce chances for a coordinated Western response by singling out Washington for charges of continued interference in Polish affairs. As Tass put it, the Americans want to turn Poland into a "permanent seat of crisis" to destroy detente and escalate the arms race.
The Soviets seem pleased that Jaruzelski's crackdown appears to have stemmed what was seen here as an intolerable erosion of Communist Party authority. Had Polish government concessions gone any further, the independent trade union movement Solidarity's quest for "renewal" was threatening to evolve into a repudiation of the postwar division of Europe with the prospect of making untenable Moscow's position in the rest of Eastern Europe.
A direct Soviet intervention, on the other hand, would have resulted in the collapse of Moscow's policy toward the West, and the island of detente the Soviets have managed to maintain in Western Europe. Apart from important trade relations, Western Europe has become a key area for the Soviets in their efforts to prevent the scheduled deployment there of new medium-range American nuclear missiles.
These were the agonizing risks of the Polish dilemma. Poland's renewal was seen as containing the threat that Moscow's strategic East European buffer would be weakened fatally. At the same time, the deployment of new U.S. weapons in Europe is viewed as the most serious strategic threat to the Soviet Union.
As they watched Poland heading inexorably into disaster, the Soviets were aware that the time-tested method of military intervention to preserve socialism in the bloc carried a suicidal risk to equally vital Soviet strategic and economic interests. Yet the Polish slide, left unchecked, would have exposed the Kremlin as a toothless bear.
The problem was solved, at least for the moment, by Jaruzelski's Dec. 13 imposition of martial law, guaranteed by Polish, rather than Soviet, troops.
In retrospect, the Soviets have followed a double-track approach. There is no doubt that they knew in advance of Jaruzelski's plan for a military takeover. They presumably helped plan it. At the same time, Soviet diplomacy had redoubled its efforts to keep the basic policy of detente on the rails.
President Leonid Brezhnev's schedule since September illuminates the hectic pace of Soviet diplomatic efforts. Despite his age and poor health, Brezhnev had summoned the energy to reassert his leadership, make numerous speeches, travel to Bonn for long and grueling talks with West German leaders and receive countless visitors in the Kremlin. Numerous West German officials, including provincial politicians, were received by Brezhnev during the past months.
His was the counsel for patience and tolerance against what are said to have been pressures for quick action against Solidarity. At the moment, they seem to have paid off.
President Reagan's initial reaction to the Polish crisis and the refusal by some of Washington's key allies to follow his sanctions against Poland has heartened the Kremlin. Since then, however, it had become clear that the Americans would also attempt to adopt some punitive measures against Moscow. This morning, Moscow received advance word of the American sanctions.
Soviet responses in the coming day are likely to heighten tension in Soviet-American relations. But the principal thrust of Soviet diplomacy is expected to focus on the attempt to prevent other Western countries from joining the Americans.
The Soviet media quoted Western figures at length today, ranging from Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who have not condemned Jaruzelski's moves.
The reports of West European bankers openly expressing the hope that the Polish military rulers could turn out to be more punctual in servicing Poland's huge debt to the West have been noted with satisfaction. The Soviets also are playing on the fact that many West European countries have a vastly greater stake in continued East-West trade than does the United States.
In this context, as one diplomat put it, politics will indeed be the art of the possible. For Jaruzelski to forge a political compromise, he would have to impose order without humiliating his opposition. He will also have to set a realistic framework for a dialogue that would be acceptable to the party, the church, the workers -- and the Kremlin.
The Soviets have made clear in repeated statements that Solidarity as it emerged from the Gdansk congress this summer is a thing of the past. But it is also clear that the situation before August 1980 cannot be restored and that the Poles must be comforted by some Soviet ideological give on internal reforms.
Thus, it is believed here that the first Gdansk agreement of Aug. 31, 1980 may become a part of the framework for the new Polish dialogue. A clue to this is provided by a senior Western diplomat who quoted a ranking Soviet official as privately justifying the military takeover on the grounds that Solidarity had violated the Gdansk accord.
It is believed here, however, that internal economic reforms in Poland would move in the direction of the Hungarian model, introducing greater independence of enterprises. Pravda today talked about new incentives and conditions that would be introduced in Polish factories.
All depends on internal Polish developments, however. What seems clear is that Moscow will give political, economic and, if necessary, military backing to Jaruzelski. Jaruzelski, in turn, is believed to have considerable leverage to induce the Soviets to go along with his plan if his government finds its own center of gravity.