Poland's leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, said today his country wanted to repair its relations with the United States and other western countries but was not going to "pay for this with concessions" they demand.
In his first press conference since taking power in 1981, Jaruzelski reaffirmed Poland's allegiance to the Soviet Union and spoke with pride about the achievements of his government during the past three years.
He said Poland has overcome the crisis "of the type we saw here not so long ago," but, he said, the country continues to experience difficulties that are compounded by American economic sanctions.
There was a tone of bitterness in his voice when he criticized West Germany under Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Bonn's policy toward Eastern Europe, Jaruzelski said, "is a fiasco." He fiercely attacked France as "our traditional ally, which turned its back on us and is hiding behind the backs of other European nations" in a U.S.-inspired ostracism of Poland.
But he fielded questions from the floor with a candor and skill rarely seen in Eastern Europe, where Communist leaders do not as a rule meet with the press. He made a few self-deprecating remarks, bantered with journalists he recognized and sprinkled his answers with colloquialisms and jokes.
Jaruzelski was clearly angry when he spoke about Washington's punitive measures against Poland and when he referred to a report by France's state radio alleging that he had been behind the murder last month of the pro-Solidarity Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko.
He said Polish authorities were vigorously investigating the "hideous crime," which he said had done "a lot of damage to us."
"We have nothing to hide," he said. "We are interested in discovering everything" about the tragedy.
Jaruzelski, who is both prime minister of Poland and first secretary of the Polish Communist Party, was dressed in military uniform and wore his customary dark glasses as he faced more than 100 foreign and Polish journalists attending a conference sponsored by the Association of Polish Journalists. He first read answers to about 40 questions submitted in advance by journalists from 26 countries and then took questions from the floor.
At no time during the 165-minute session did he mention the outlawed Solidarity trade union or any of its leaders. He sounded sharp when questioned about human rights conditions here, saying that "we are not asking you about political prisoners in Chile and El Salvador."
Jaruzelski's suppression of Solidarity and his jailing of its activists led the U.S. government to impose sanctions including a ban on new credits, opposition to Poland joining the International Monetary Fund and suspension of normal tariffs on Polish exports to the United States. The Reagan administration continues to demand the release of a remaining two dozen or so political prisoners following the freeing last summer of most of those held and the resumption of a dialogue by the government with genuine representatives of society.
Speaking about East-West relations, Jaruzelski said he saw no indication President Reagan's rearmament program was being "corrected."
Reagan's policy during the past four years was unrealistic, he said, because it was based on the assumption that the United States could gain military superiority over the Soviet Union.
"I know the Soviet Union well enough" to be sure that it can match any new U.S. weapons program, he said.
But he said Poland was "very interested" in positive developments that could come from the planned resumption in January of high-level Soviet-American arms control negotiations.
Speaking with bitterness about Reagan's policy toward Poland, Jaruzelski said the U.S. administration "thinks that Poland can be deleted from the world scene."
That, he said, was "a wrong way of thinking." The Americans "are learning very slowly. They needed 16 years to recognize the Soviet Union, 25 years to recognize East Germany and 30 years to recognize China."
"Even if it takes a very long time," he said, "they will have to learn about Poland -- the sooner, the better."
Jaruzelski said the U.S. economic sanctions have made it "more difficult to cure our economy. But they also have brought some benefit. We have become wiser. Our society has rid itself of many misconceptions and illusions and we have learned to rely on ourselves and our socialist partners.
"There are very few people who have done so much to convince socialist countries about the need for better integration" of their economies as has Reagan, Jaruzelski said. "If there were a medal for such services , the first one would go to President Reagan."
"We can say that we are producing less, we are living worse, but we are not in a crisis" anymore, he added.
He said he had inherited a "catastrophic situation" in 1981 in which the economy was "decomposing." He jokingly referred to journalists who visited Poland at that time as viewing him as "a man-eater and the chief of the junta."
But, he asserted, his government over the past three years had been dealing "honestly" with the population while seeking to resolve the political and economic crisis.
He said the process of "national reconciliation" was well under way, that economic reforms are being implemented and that new trade unions have been established with 5 million members or about 40 percent of the labor force.
He said his government's policy toward Poland's dominant Roman Catholic Church has "demonstrated that, in practice, it is possible on constitutional grounds to carry out all national tasks without moral collision" between communists and Catholic believers.
Asked whether he would do anything differently than he did during the past three years, Jaruzelski asserted that the strategic decision to impose martial law in December 1981 was the only possible one, adding that "tactically many decisions could have been carried out with greater accuracy."
Jaruzelski accused the West German government of contributing to the collapse of detente, describing its policies, including the stationing in 1983 of new U.S. medium-range nuclear missiles there, as suicidal. At the same time he said the appearance of "revanchist" tendencies have created "mistrust" as to Bonn's intentions. The term refers to the claims on former German territories ceded to Poland after World War II. The German problem, he said, "was solved by Adolf Hitler."
Poland's place in the world, he made clear, was anchored in the Soviet Bloc. "Anyone who sees the world clearly must admit that a country cannot be suspended in a vacuum," he said. Poland, he added, has "lived through such periods in the past," and the fate of Poland cannot be divorced "from the changes which have taken place in our time."
Jaruzelski told what he called a "bitter joke" circulating in Poland at the beginning of the century, when the country was divided among Russia, Germany and Austria.
A teacher in an international school, the joke goes, asked his students to write an essay about elephants. A French student wrote about the love life of elephants, a German student focused on the possible use of elephants in economic activities, but a Polish student's essay was titled "Elephants and the Polish Question."
"Well," the general said, "the biggest achievement of the Polish left was to liquidate this question."