Polish leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski said here today that a voter turnout of 75 to 80 percent in next month's parliamentary elections would indicate a return to "a high level" of normalcy and stability in his country and might lead to a new amnesty for political prisoners.
In an interview of almost two hours at the Polish mission to the United Nations, Jaruzelski also talked of the Soviet Union under its new leadership as a "country that is now on the move in a new way" and warned that America, on the other hand, seemed to be distancing itself, perhaps "irreversibly," from Poland and its earlier ties to that country.
The Polish leader made no specific commitment to release any of the estimated 250 to 300 political prisoners whose continued detention the Reagan administration cites as an important obstacle to improved relations between Washington and Warsaw.
"We shall see," he said, noting that those released would have to "realize" that they could not take any action to organize illegal strikes. But the general, wearing a blue suit and his customary dark glasses and speaking through an interpreter, added that "on the whole, I am rather optimistic about the elections" and they will be of "great importance for the decision eventually to announce another amnesty. In other words," he said, "the better the results of the election," the more it will show that "stability and normalcy have reached a high level and the better consideration there will be for announcing an amnesty."
In the last amnesty in July 1984, Jaruzelski released all but 22 of more than 600 prisoners. But since then, three key leaders of the banned Solidarity trade union have been rearrested and the numbers of overall arrests have crept up again. Jaruzelski rejected the idea that they are "political prisoners," contending that they have broken Polish law.
In linking political stability to a high voter turnout, Jaruzelski also clearly warned the Reagan administration that its encouragement of those supporters of Solidarity who have called for a boycott of the elections -- because in their view they will not reflect the true desires of the Polish people -- may undercut an amnesty.
"Encouraging people to boycott as the Voice of America and so-called Radio Free Europe does . . . is aimed at limiting electoral participation and this will lower the index of stability" which may "not allow for an amnesty," he said.
Jaruzelski contended that Solidarity is a spent force, that his economic reforms are working and the government sees the coming elections as some kind of a test case that it is regaining its authority.
In Poland, voting is compulsory under law, although Jaruzelski said there is no punishment for failure to vote. In the last parliamentary election in 1980, the government reported a voter turnout of 98.87 percent, but Jaruzelski said that after the intervening turmoil of martial law and the crushing of Solidarity, a turnout of 75 to 80 percent would now be considered an indication of "a high level" of stability. In nationwide local elections in June 1984, a year after martial law was lifted, the government reported a turnout of 74.95 percent, more than the 66 percent it had set as its goal in the face of a boycott called by Solidarity. Solidarity called the figure "inflated."
But the powerful Roman Catholic church also has not encouraged people to vote. Asked whether he was disappointed that the church has thus far been silent on the coming parliamentary elections, Jaruzelski said, "naturally," because the church has "moral authority." He said the church had adopted a "neutral position. . . . All in all, the hierarchy leaves complete freedom to functionaries and the faithful." Most of them will go to the polls, he predicted.
In the interview, the Polish Communist Party chief and prime minister, who is attending the 40th anniversary session of the United Nations as his first foray to the West since taking power four years ago, also made these key points:
*Western economic sanctions, especially those kept in force by the United States, imposed after Jaruzelski cracked down on an expanding Solidarity and imposed martial law in December 1981, have caused "tremendous loss and suffering," and amount to $15 billion.
He described the sanctions as self-defeating, in the sense that they made it harder for Poland to repay its $28 billion debt to western creditors, including $2.8 billion to American lenders. He said that under the sanctions, imports from the West have declined by 50 percent -- and up to 75 percent from the United States. This made it harder to modernize industry, improve exports and thus pay back creditors.
*Those sanctions and losses, although "so painful, have also brought advantages to us," he claimed, "like the silver lining to every cloud." Poland has now learned to "calculate things better, how to produce what we formerly imported" and how to increase worker productivity, he said.
*Most importantly, the sanctions "forced us to a profound reorienting of our economy to the Soviet Union and socialist countries. The Soviet Union is a stable partner and a stable market. They cooperate with us. They want us. The Soviet Union is a country that is now on the move in a new way, a country of inconceivable possibilities with resources probably richer than the United States. There is now a new mood in the Soviet Union. Just wait a couple of years. Now things will change," he said in an apparent reference to the new Soviet leadership under Mikhail Gorbachev.
*"We are very interested that relations with the United States be normalized," Jaruzelski said. But he added, "I will tell you something you do not expect: that at this stage it is the United States that stands to lose more than Poland. That may sound strange and paradoxical -- the rich and powerful United States and Poland with all its difficulties."
"But for Poland," he contended, "the worst is over," while the United States "is evacuating itself from Poland, not only economically but also psychologically," distancing itself from earlier ties to a point that "evacuation from Poland could one day prove irreversible."
To support his point, he removed his dark glasses, put on his clear-lensed reading glasses and produced a paper stamped "confidential" that he said was a reliable opinion poll made by a Polish institute over the past year in a sampling of between 1,500 and 5,000 Poles. All the findings showed the United States increasingly viewed as a threat to peace and less of an ally than in the past. The polls also showed the Soviet Union far behind West Germany, Japan, the United States and Sweden in terms of the most effective economy.
"Although Americans are very clever and wise people, yet for its administration it takes a long time to learn. We would like the U.S. to learn the new Poland much faster. It's there. It's real," he said.
Jaruzelski repeatedly declined to give any indication that it was up to Poland to make any new move to satisfy American concerns or break the impasse with Washington, which continues to withhold nonfood credits and most-favored-nation trade status from the Warsaw regime.
"Whenever I am asked a similar question, I have a very good answer," he said, and then turned to an aide who told an anecdote about how "there was a very good Jew living in the turn of the century who wanted to marry off his daughter. He came to the rabbi for advice and the rabbi said he didn't know how he could help. The next day the Jew came to the rabbi and said he had an idea and he would marry his daughter to Rockefeller. The rabbi said then it is 50 percent done." His point was that the U.S. administration, "unfortunately, has not consented to the marriage" with Poland.
American officials say that after the 1984 Polish amnesty, relations had begun to improve and Reagan removed his block on consideration of Polish membership in the International Monetary Fund.
But since then, U.S. officials say, Jaruzelski has "snookered the United States," as one put it, and gone in the other direction, rearresting three leading Solidarity figures among some 250 or more new prisoners, expelling on transparent grounds and exposing to unwarranted harassment two U.S. diplomats and a defense attache, and generally shutting down any trend toward liberalization.
Jaruzelski argued that in sentencing three prominent Solidarity leaders to jail in June for attempting to organize a 15-minute work stoppage, which is illegal under Polish law, Poland was using "instruments of law very similar to those used in other countries." He cited the arrest of striking air controllers in the United States and coal miners in Britain. But the U.S. air controllers were jailed initially for contempt of court and were largely fined rather than jailed for defying a no-strike contract they had agreed to. Many of Britain's coal miners were arrested for attacks against police and for contempt of court.
Jaruzelski said that Poland's economic reforms of 1982 "were very bold," that they go further than those in Hungary that have attracted more favorable western interest, and that they raised national income by about 6 percent annually in 1983 and 1984, but less this year "due to a very severe winter."
He said the United States "maintains relations with many countries, including in Eastern Europe, and I'm sure in those countries they could be able to find many more problems of the kind that Poland is criticized for" by the United States.
"So I'm inclined to believe that Poland is getting special treatment," he said. "When the United States wanted to improve relations with China, they sent a Ping-Pong team, though at that time heads were falling off by the thousands. I'm sure it sounded sober and rational at the time" to establish contact with China, "but I'm afraid there is no rationality and sobriety of the same kind being applied to Poland."
He said that while now the United States and some western nations are engaged in a paradox of being creditors who are making it difficult for Poland to pay off its debts by continuing an economic squeeze, "we never noticed our western partners condemning previous Polish leadership" when all of the overborrowing of the 1970s led to the debt crisis.
While in New York, Jaruzelski also met with and had high praise for U.S. banker David Rockefeller, who is seeking to put together an investment program of several hundred million dollars to help make Polish agricultural exports more efficient. Jaruzelski said there has been progress in the talks but it was still too early to say when an agreement might be reached.
He also said he understood there had been some progress in a much smaller church-sponsored effort, which he made clear he had nothing to do with, to funnel funds into the private sector of Polish farming.
While he was in New York, an IMF team was in Poland investigating anew Poland's bid to enter the fund. On that prospect, the general said, "I think we are moving toward a proper direction."
At the end of the interview, Jaruzelski recalled that a reporter had noted that he seemed to be walking stiffly and may have had back trouble. Not so, he said, and promptly touched his fingers to the floor twice from a standing position.