President Reagan met yesterday with Jerzy Milewski, international representative of the outlawed Polish labor union Solidarity, and afterward issued a statement that criticized political repression in Poland in relatively mild terms.
Reagan said in the three-paragraph statement that he held "high hopes" that the amnesty declared by the Polish military government in July 1984 would be "a giant step towards national reconciliation."
"Unfortunately, most of the recent news from Poland has not been good," Reagan said. "The number of persons detained for purely political reasons has risen sharply."
The muted tone of Reagan's criticism contrasted with previous presidential statements and actions on Poland.
On Dec. 19, 1981, he ordered a series of economic reprisals against the Soviet Union for its "heavy and direct responsibility for the repression in Poland."
On Oct. 9, 1982, after the Polish government banned Solidarity, he suspended Poland's favored trade status and bluntly criticized its government.
Last year, during his reelection campaign, the president denounced the "subjugation" of Poland.
One White House official said that the measured quality of yesterday's statement reflected "the East-West climate," a reference to administration attempts to avoid confrontational rhetoric in advance of the president's speech Thursday at the United Nations and his summit meeting next month with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The statement made no reference to the Soviets.
Another official insisted, however, that the statement did demonstrate Reagan's "continued commitment to free trade unionism in Poland" and his recognition that "the political and human rights situation has deteriorated" there.
The statement was issued without comment by the White House press office after a 10-minute meeting between Reagan and Milewski, whom the president referred to as a "thoughtful observer" of the Polish situation.
"History proves that increased repression only aggravates current problems and sows the seeds of future discontent," Reagan said. "I continue to believe that a genuine dialogue between the government and important elements of society, including free and independent trade unions, is the only way to solve Poland's serious problems."
Earlier, in a speech to U.S. attorneys, Reagan talked bluntly about organized crime and said that convictions of mobsters had quadrupled since 1981.
"There will be no negotiated settlements, no detente with the Mob," Reagan said. "It's war to the end where we're concerned."
After referring to his own involvement 50 years ago in efforts to combat underworld influence that then existed in some Hollywood trade unions, Reagan said he has "never forgotten" this experience.
"And believe me, there is nothing I'd like better than to be remembered as a president who did everything he could do to bust up the syndicates and give the mobsters a permanent stay in the jailhouse, courtesy of the United States government," Reagan said.
The president also said he was "proud of our record" in appointing federal judges who were "highly qualified individuals who also adhere to a restrained and truly judicious view" of the role of the judiciary.
Reagan said that while independence of the courts from improper political influence was "a sacred principle," he also believed that it was wrong for the courts to "preempt legislative prerogatives or become vehicles for political action or social experimentation."