The Soviet Union hinted broadly today that it would take retaliatory trade action against Western European nations that decide to follow President Reagan's program of economic sanctions over Poland.
Foreign Trade Minister Nikolai Patolichev, in a long article in the official Communist Party newspaper Pravda outlining economic benefits Western Europe had enjoyed as a result of East-West detente, charged that the United States was trying to "worsen" international relations to unleash "an unstoppable arms race."
Another Pravda article today said the Reagan administration was becoming "increasingly hysterical" about the course of events in Poland since the military takeover. It said the Americans were threatening to call off U.S.-Soviet arms limitation talks to exert pressure on Moscow.
The twin approach suggested that Moscow was trying to play upon the transatlantic divisions on these two issues to try to preclude the emergence of a common Western response.
Without mentioning Poland, Patolichev said that the Reagan administration was resorting to the "unacceptable" use of "trade and economic relations with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries with the objective of exerting political pressures on them."
Patolichev warned that "those countries that succumb to pressure exerted from the other side of the ocean may pay for this with the loss of their positions in our foreign trade. Experience shows that it is far easier to disrupt trade relations than to restore them."
He said that Western Europe had received "real benefits" from business cooperation with the Soviet Bloc during the years of detente in the 1970s. He added that continued trade and economic ties reflect "vital interests" of Western Europe, "especially in the conditions of economic decline."
Patolichev identified Western economic difficulties as involving "a long structural crisis in a series of the most important industrial branches, significant underutilization of production capacities and a continually growing unemployment."
Patolichev's article clearly stated that the Europeans have a far greater stake in East-West trade than the Americans, and that Reagan's concept of sanctions could turn out to be self-defeating for Western European countries.
The daily labor union newspaper Trud, meanwhile, said in a commentary today that the United States was trying to impose its own interests on Western Europe.
The economic interests of the United States and Western Europe "are presently far from being identical," Trud continued. "Reagan is ready to sacrifice the interests of American firms, which will involve no small losses to them, but their losses seem to be a trifle compared with the losses of West European firms if their countries follow American footsteps."
Patolichev, who has been foreign trade minister for more than 20 years and was involved in all major Soviet trade negotiations with the West, said the policies of the Reagan administration have produced " uncertainties in American firms and Soviet trade organizations about the possibility of normal" trade between the two countries.
U.S.-Soviet trade has declined while Soviet trade with other countries has flourished, Patolichev noted. But he gave no figures.
The decline occurred following former president Jimmy Carter's partial embargo on U.S. exports to the Soviet Union following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at the end of 1979. Total U.S. exports that year stood at $3.6 billion and were scheduled, before the invasion, to go up to $4.8 billion in 1980.
Apart from U.S. grain exports, Soviet-American trade has sharply declined despite President Reagan's decision last spring to lift the partial Carter grain embargo. The total trade for the first eight months of 1981 was slightly above $1.4 billion, with U.S. agricultural exports accounting for about $800 million of the total.
To be effective, Reagan's sanctions would have to be accompanied by similar allied punitive measures. The Soviets seem to have been satisfied with the lukewarm West European reaction to Reagan's proddings, and Patolichev's three-column article was seen by Western diplomats here as reflecting continued Soviet pressure on the Europeans to resist Washington.
The main focus of his article was on West Germany, France, and Finland. He said that since the onset of detente, Moscow's trade with the West has risen from $6.7 billion in 1971 to $45 billion in 1980.
In 1980, Soviet trade with West Germany accounted for $8.2 billion, Finland for $5.6 billion and France for $5.4 billion.
Patolichev also emphasized economic benefits involved in the gas pipeline that a West German-led European consortium plans to build to carry Soviet natural gas from western Siberia to Germany and other West European countries.
He also singled out individual West German firms ranging from those contracted to deliver 700,000 tons of pipes to others that will build a new aluminum plant and a large factory producing synthetic fibers.
Referring to the recent visit to Bonn by Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, Patolichev said several large projects "are being considered now, including some that are looking into the next century."
Patolichev also analyzed Soviet trade relations with Italy, Austria and Japan and mentioned only in passing Britain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden.
He said the Soviet Union continued to promote trade with Western countries "even in the present complex world situation." This, he said, reflected Moscow's determination to contribute "to the improvement of general relations with them and to continue detente."
He said Western Europe today accounts for 80 percent of Soviet trade with industrialized countries.
During the last decade, he continued, "Europe lived in the conditions of peace and detente, getting real benefits from the extension of business cooperation with socialist countries. The large and steadily growing markets of the socialist community constitute an objective reality. This is why the trend for expanding business cooperation between Western Europe, on the one hand, and the Soviet Union and other socialist countries on the other, is inevitable."