WARSAW, NOV. 11 -- Expressing optimism that next month's Washington summit will open a new era in East-West relations, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski said today that the Warsaw Pact is prepared to negotiate reductions in its sizable tank forces in return for cuts in NATO's bomber aircraft based in Western Europe.

The Polish leader's proposal, if formally presented and accepted by the West, would represent a new approach to Europe-wide negotiations on arms control, which until now have focused on manpower reductions in Warsaw Pact and North Atlantic Treaty Organization armies without making progress.

Instead, Jaruzelski said today, the two blocs should cut back or eliminate the offensive weapons systems that each side finds most threatening.

"Troops today are secondary to weapons," Jaruzelski said in an interview conducted at the Belvedere Palace, his official residence. He said that conventional arms talks were now bogged down in "the statistical aspects of the problem" and needed a new focus.

By design or otherwise, his emphasis on seeking a new conceptual base for conventional arms talks echoes proposals being discussed in the U.S. arms-control community to reduce Soviet superiority in armor as a high priority.

The 64-year-old Polish leader, who returned to Warsaw on Sunday from a five-day stay in Moscow for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet revolution, voiced unusually warm praise for the Reagan administration's approach to arms control and to relations with Poland.

Jaruzelski had been a bitter critic of Washington on both those subjects in recent years. His change in tone carries particular weight because of his position as the closest European ally of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who meets with President Reagan in Washington on Dec. 7.

Speaking in Polish throughout the 80-minute discussion, he said he found recent actions by the White House "encouraging" for the prospects of the summit.

"It seems to me that the matter of medium- and shorter-range missiles has already been settled. . . . If security can be maintained without these weapons at a lower level, it would mean a certain precedent and an encouragement" for world opinion and for the superpower leaders, he said.

Jaruzelski indicated that Gorbachev agreed to the Washington meeting only after Reagan accepted full discussion of the Strategic Defense Initiative for space-based missile defense, which the Soviets oppose.

The Soviets had already made significant compromises on SDI by being willing to discuss limits on the system rather than demanding its prohibition, Jaruzelski asserted, adding:

"There is a certain border of compromise which cannot be passed or it deforms the whole process . . . . There has already been a lot of movement on the Soviet side for the summit and a lot of compromises, if you take the starting point of the SDI discussion, when SDI seemed an insurmountable barrier."

The Washington summit should "represent a moving away from the psychology of enmity, which governed us for many years now, to a pyschology of interdependence," he said.

Jaruzelski twice mentioned the visit of Vice President Bush to Warsaw last month as a "positive sign" that U.S.-Polish relations have improved significantly, after a period of intense hostility that was triggered by Jaruzelski's declaration of martial law and suppression of the Solidarity union movement on Dec. 13, 1981.

Jaruzelski appealed for Washington's support for loans to Poland by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and lower interest rates on existing official debts.

"Mr. Bush promised us that he would be our spokesman in debt rescheduling talks in Paris and he kept his promise. It was not a big step, but it was a step," Jaruzelski said. He suggested that the United States had a major stake in supporting the kind of economic liberalization he has undertaken in Poland, which he noted parallels Gorbachev's proposals for perestroika, or restructuring, in the Soviet Union.

"The United States has very often encouraged us in reforms. We will be very interested to find out if the fact that we are now pursuing them will affect United States policy in economic and financial matters. Will we find support in America, or will it be made difficult? I don't even want to think about that latter possibility."

His proposal to tie the Warsaw Pact's capability to mount a tank attack to NATO's air strike force is the first specific idea Jaruzelski has advanced to flesh out a general disarmament plan for Central Europe that he advanced last May.

Jaruzelski emphasized that his arms-control plan, which calls for linking reductions to specific geographical zones in Central Europe, was not intended to replace the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction talks in Vienna, where negotiations on manpower levels have dragged on for 14 years.

But by putting forward his proposals at a time when those talks are being significantly restructured, the general offered an alternative approach that will have been cleared by the Soviet leadership, western diplomats said.

Echoing changes that Gorbachev has announced in Soviet policy on force reductions, Jaruzelski pledged that Poland is "ready to reduce or to eliminate the asymmetry {in conventional forces} where it can be shown to exist." He noted that Poland possesses the second largest conventional force in the Warsaw Pact, after the Soviet Union.

NATO officials resist any mingling in negotiations of nuclear-capable aircraft and artillery with conventional force levels, asserting that the Warsaw Pact's large numerical superiority in tanks and troops can only be offset by the threat to respond to an attack with battlefield nuclear weapons and air strikes.

Jaruzelski said the discussions between European countries that he has proposed could begin with reductions in "a zone of direct contact, that could be 100 to 150 kilometers wide, from which both sides would remove those arms that could be used for sudden attack."

He emphasized that NATO aircraft and artillery capable of delivering nuclear charges should be included in the reductions in return for the sharp cuts in Warsaw Pact armored forces that he suggested were now possible.

"We know the West believes that there is a predominance of the Warsaw Pact in tanks. We believe that the NATO countries have a predominance in certain kinds of aircraft, especially bombers. The first steps could be taken with these two categories."

Jaruzelski said that the Soviet Union was actively consulting its six Warsaw Pact allies on disarmament issues and added that Poland's relations with its allies, "above all the Soviet Union, never were as good during the past 40 years as they are now."

The general seemed to concede that there were differences among East Bloc nations over whether to pursue the radical economic and political reforms advocated by Gorbachev. He said that while Poland was pursuing policies "similar to and in many cases identical to those of the Soviet Union and Hungary," other countries remained committed to "other forms of development."

"History will show which road is best," Jaruzelski said of the discrepancies.

Jaruzelski asserted that East European countries now had more leeway to pursue different policies. "For many years we always heard that everything was directed from Moscow and everyone had to line up in one row. What is different . . . is that some things that might have been regarded as sinful before are treated as normal today."