Western European governments are making a concerted effort, despite the Reagan administration's reservations, to revive high-level diplomatic contacts with Poland this fall after a three-year freeze.
The Europeans have decided to respond to Poland's July amnesty for political prisoners by lifting a diplomatic quarantine imposed on the Warsaw government after martial law was declared in December 1981.
Britain announced today that Minister of State Malcolm Rifkind, who oversees East-West relations at the Foreign Office, will visit Warsaw from Nov. 4 to 7.
He will be preceded this month by Austrian Foreign Minister Leopold Gratz and Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou. Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher of West Germany and Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti also intend to make official trips to Poland sometime later this year.
The Reagan administration, on the other hand, has no immediate plans for a significant diplomatic thaw with Warsaw and one U.S. source said in Washington that "we're not all that thrilled about" the move by America's European allies. Most U.S. sanctions imposed in 1981 remain effectively in place despite indications in August that some were being lifted.
The new courtship of Poland reflects a strong desire among the European allies to promote an East-West thaw by pursuing closer relations with all Eastern European governments, including that of Polish leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski.
They reportedly believe that the Polish government can be encouraged to introduce more liberalized changes if its efforts are recognized in the West by demonstrating a willingness to build channels of political and economic cooperation.
The Reagan administration has moved more slowly in reestablishing ties with Warsaw because it remains skeptical about the true extent of the amnesty, U.S. officials said, noting that while hundreds of political prisoners have been released, several key leaders of the banned Solidarity trade union still remain in jail.
In August, in response to the amnesty, the United States announced that it was lifting a suspension of scientific exchanges between the two countries and ending a ban on landing rights for regularly scheduled flights by the Polish LOT airline.
But the United States since has told Poland that before official scientific exchanges and regular LOT flights can resume, the two countries must negotiate complete new agreements in those areas. U.S. officials said today that talks have not begun on a new landing rights agreement but that a draft agreement on scientific exchanges is expected to be ready before the end of the year.
The United States also plans to send a scientific attache to Warsaw early next year to fill a 2 1/2-year-old vacancy that resulted from the expulsion of the previous attache on disputed subversion charges.
No high- or middle-level administration official has visited Poland since the imposition of martial law, however, and a U.S. source said today that there are no plans for any to go there.
The Reagan administration, to the dismay of the Warsaw government, also has balked at taking further conciliatory measures such as easing conditions of Poland's membership in the International Monetary Fund -- a move that Washington said in August must await "complete and reasonable" implementation of the amnesty decree. So far, Poland has released 630 of an expected 652 political prisoners.
Two other key U.S. sanctions -- suspension of most-favored-nation trade status and a freeze on new commodities and trade credits to Poland -- remain firmly in effect with no discussion of their being lifted, according to both sides.
The Western Europeans, however, are now prepared to grant the Poles concessions on IMF membership as well as improved trade arrangements, European diplomats said.
The West German government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl appears most eager to repair relations with Poland, which in recent months has joined the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia in a virulent propaganda crusade against alleged West German "revanchism." The term refers to perceived attempts to regain territories in the Soviet Bloc that once were under German domain.
The hostile propaganda campaign, conducted largely through the official press, has shown the deep anxiety felt in many parts of Eastern Europe toward any suggestion of future German reunification.
It generated enough pressure to compel East German leader Erich Honecker to postpone a planned visit to West Germany last month. The trip would have marked the first visit by an East German head of state to West Germany.
Later, apparently acting under Soviet demands to punish Bonn, Bulgarian President Todor Zhivkov dropped plans for an official visit to West Germany. Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu is still scheduled to come to Bonn next week.
Genscher's trip to Warsaw in November is seen as an important step by the Bonn government in reviving the momentum for East-West detente.
Genscher is expected to offer reassurances that Bonn has no territorial designs on its eastern neighbors and to reaffirm Bonn's commitment to the 1970 West German-Polish treaty, which recognized the Oder-Neisse river line as the Polish border.
West Germany also is willing to accelerate plans for assistance to Polish agriculture through funding arranged and dispensed by churches in the two countries. In return, Bonn hopes to elicit more cooperation on the emigration of ethnic Germans from Silesia and other parts of Poland once under German rule.
The number of ethnic Germans leaving Poland has dropped substantially in recent years, largely because many of them are skilled workers and farmers who the Polish government believes fulfill vital services for the economy.