WARSAW, SEPT. 12 -- East German leader Erich Honecker's tour of West Germany and suggestion of a future normalization of the inter-German border have unsettled the communist rulers of neighboring Poland and underlined how longstanding tensions between East Bloc states are beginning to surface under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Deeply sensitive to any suggestion of a move toward German reunification, Polish authorities sounded their evident disapproval of Honecker's comparison of a future inter-German border to the present Polish-East German border by omitting any mention of it from official commentaries on the trip in the state-run press today.
Instead, the commentaries strongly criticized what one paper called "alarming" West German aspirations for unity and stressed the enduring differences between the East and West German states. The statements also underlined the official Polish position that any change in the present status of German division would mean the destruction of European security.
Inter-German relations, declared the official communist party daily Trybuna Ludu earlier this week, "cannot be positively developed as something 'special' that departs from the division of the world into two social systems." An editorial today pointedly added, "Poland welcomes activation of relations between the two German states to the extent that it strengthens detente and the security of all European states."
Poland's communist leadership is particularly antagonistic to inter-German rapprochement because of fears that it could lead to claims on the extensive former German territories awarded to Poland after World War II. In a broader sense, German reunification is seen as an inherent threat by policy makers in a country subject for centuries to Prussian occupation.
For the government of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, Honecker's visit is the latest of a series of developments that have raised Polish concerns about its neighbor and nominal ally, ranging from the renewed East German interest in the history of imperial Prussia to a nagging dispute over territorial waters in the Baltic Sea.
At the same time, senior Polish officials have taken the position that the emergence of tensions between Poland and East Germany, like disputes between other East Bloc states, is a natural consequence of Gorbachev's reform policies. The new Soviet policy of glasnost, or openness, has meant in part greater freedom for Moscow's East European allies to express national aspirations -- and with them, long-suppressed differences.
In that sense, Honecker's comment on borders may be interpreted around Eastern Europe in part as a sign of the greater flexibility that communist leaders now have to carry out nationally distinctive foreign policies, western diplomats here said.
"Glasnost may generate new problems or even some temporary difficulties," Polish Foreign Minister Marian Orzechowski said in a recent interview with the weekly Polityka that touched on Polish-East German tensions. "Each nation in this community has its own specific qualities. Quite simply, we are all in the process of learning how to be open about problems."
The incipient Polish-East German tensions are in fact only one of a number of long-simmering conflicts between Warsaw Pact states that have burst into the open in the past year. Hungary and Romania are embroiled in a bitter public dispute over treatment of the large Hungarian minority in Romanian-ruled Transylvania. Meanwhile, a Polish-Soviet commission has begun to explore long-suppressed events such as the Soviet deportation of thousands of Polish civilians to Siberia during World War II.
Warsaw's doubts about Honecker's policies surfaced in Orzechowski's extensive interview with Polityka. The interviewer mentioned "bilateral disputes" between Poland and East Germany and then asked the foreign minister to comment on inter-German relations, saying, "There has been a great deal going on in this respect recently."
East and West Germany "are permanent elements of Europe's political map," was Orzechowski's forceful reply. "Their existence is a precondition and guarantee of the 42-year-old peace in Europe. A change in this status quo would signal . . . the destruction of Europe as it actually exists."
Diplomats here said a clear effort to assuage Warsaw's concerns and minimize Polish-East German tensions could be seen in the scheduling of a trip by Jaruzelski to East Germany this month for consultations with Honecker soon after his return to East Berlin.
At the same time, western observers said, Honecker's initiative may be quietly welcomed by some other East European leaders anxious to expand their own ties with western countries and establish a climate of detente in central Europe.
Improvement in inter-German relations and an eventual reunified, neutralist Germany also are seen as positive goals by East European dissident movements, whose hopes for national sovereignty depend in part on a gradual weakening of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact and on the development of strong bonds between the capitalist and socialist countries of central Europe.