The United States and its European allies today tightened their economic pressure on the Polish military government and set the stage for possible future sanctions against Warsaw and Moscow.
These actions were spelled out in a toughly worded communique issued by the foreign ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization following a special meeting here called at the urging of the United States.
After condemning "the massive violation of human rights" in Poland, the communique called on the Polish military government of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski "to live up to its declared intention to reestablish civil liberties and the process of reform." It also pointed an accusing finger directly at the Soviet Union and said Moscow should "respect Poland's fundamental right to solve its own problems free from foreign interference."
The communique urged the Polish authorities to take three specific actions concerning civil liberties. These were "to end the state of martial law, to release those arrested, and to restore immediately a dialogue with the church and Solidarity."
As one spur to forcing moderation in Poland, the allies agreed to strike at the economically hard-pressed government there by putting in abeyance future commercial credits for goods other than food and by suspending a decision on negotiations to reschedule Poland's 1982 payments on its debts to NATO governments.
In addition, after warning that "economic relations with Poland and the Soviet Union are bound to be affected" if the crisis continues, the NATO partners agreed to study possible long-term sanctions involving energy, agricultural commodities and other goods including high-technology exports.
This threat of economic retaliation, which has been a sticking point between the United States and those West European countries that have substantial trade with the Soviet Bloc, was stated in terms allowing each ally to act "in accordance with its own situation and legislation."
That left unanswered the question of how extensive and uniform any economic measures taken by NATO are likely to be. But the United States is known to regard today's communique as laying the groundwork for sanctions if the repression in Poland continues.
The communique adopted almost in its entirety the language of a draft declaration that the United States had been urging on its partners in recent days. In that respect, today's action marked a clear gain for the Reagan administration's efforts to get previously reluctant countries, such as West Germany, even to talk about the possibility of sanctions.
U.S. satisfaction with the result was underscored by Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., who told a press conference: "I consider today's meeting to be a solid success for the alliance .... We sought a common near- and long-term strategy to help the Polish people, and today the alliance produced one."
The U.S. lobbying for a tough stance in the Polish crisis resulted in 14 of NATO's 15 member countries supporting the communique. The new Greek government of Prime Minister Andreas Papandreau, which is seeking Soviet Bloc support in its feud with Turkey over Cyprus, abstained from endorsing the key parts of the declaration.
Haig, responding to questions about whether NATO had agreed to do anything more than talk further, conceded, "That's too soon to say." But, he noted, "We have agreed to look into the question of further action with a specificity that was lacking before."
Both Haig and NATO Secretary General Joseph Luns said specific talks within the alliance, probably involving economic and technical experts, are likely to begin looking into the sanctions question by next week. Referring to widespread speculation about whether the Polish crisis is causing disarray within the Atlantic Alliance, Haig said, "I hope we wouldn't sit around with a scorecard counting the actions we haven't taken and talk about Western failure."
Other steps called for in the communique include greater efforts to focus world opinion on the plight of the Polish people. It urged, for example, that NATO foreign ministers lead their delegations to the follow-up conference in Madrid on the human rights provisions of the Helsinki accords. The Madrid conference is in recess until Feb. 9, and it is expected that when it resumes a parade of NATO foreign ministers will use it as a forum to attack the Soviet Union and Poland.
In addition, the communique said NATO governments will study such possible short-term measures as further restricting the movements of Soviet and Polish diplomats and reducing or not renewing scientific and technical exchanges.
The allies reiterated their commitment to continue the Geneva talks between the United States and the Soviet Union on reducing the medium-range nuclear missiles. But the communique warned:
"The Soviet Union will bear full responsibility if its actions with regard to Poland and its failure to live up to existing international obligations damage the arms control process."
The Associated Press reported that the Soviet Union responded to the statement with a commentary by Tass calling it "intolerable interference in Poland's internal affairs."