As Soviet Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev sat impassively on the platform hearing the harsh words from Czechoslovak leader Gustav Husak about Poland, there was increasingly worried speculation among Western diplomats here in Prague that a decision to intervene had already been taken.
Of particular concern was that there was no word of praise for the Polish Communist Party itself. no vote of confidence that it could overcome the forces of reaction.
Up until now the line of Moscow and its close allies has been that the Polish Communist Party was under pressure from the Solidarity free trade union, but the party could in the end emerge victorious. That was the message when Polish party leader Stanislaw Kania visited Prague recently. But with Mr. Brezhnev at his side and with a background of continuing Warsaw Pact Maneuvers around Poland , Mr. Husak spoke of the Polish crisis as worrying and disturbing. It was, he said, becoming more intense.
After saying that the Polish party had been given a chance to put its house in order at the Moscow meeting last December, he went straight into an attack on those who misused events in Poland to instigate antisocialist campaigns. They must be reminded, he said, that we have to defend the socialist community and its interests.
Also taken as ominous by Western observers here were Mr. Husak's pointed references to the uprising in Hungary in 1956 and the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. These he classified as attempts by the West to break up the unity of the socialist bloc. They weren't succesfful then, he added, and they won't be successful now.
Mr. Brezhnev sat an imposing, bulky presence throughout Mr. Husak's speech, which lasted more than three hours. After he led the applause, it was clear it was the kind of speech Mr. Brezhnev wanted to hear at this stage.
There is speculation among Western and political observers here now about whether Mr. Brezhnev will go on to berlin after his Prague visit, since the East Germans are about to hold their party congress.
Certainly East Germany and Czechoslovakia are the two key allies in any military or strategic consideration of the problem because of their common borders with Poland.
While Mr. Brezhnev is here in Prague, he is also expected to have talks with the leader of the Polish delegation to the congress, Stefan olszowski, widely regarded as a hard-liner within the present party leadership.He was recently pressed by the party rank and file to quit because of his opposition to concessions given to Solidarity, but demands on him and two of his hard-line colleagues to resign were reversed, apparently under Soviet pressure.
Some observers here see Mr. Olszowski as a man who is sympathetic to Moscow's views and who could play a key role if the Soviet Union decided to move into Poland.
Certainly then, the sudden appearance of Mr. Brezhnev in Prague has increased the worry and concern of all Western diplomats here. I asked one communist journalist why only Mr. Brezhnev had come to Prague, what about the other communist leaders?
"Mr. Brezhnev by himself was enough to make the point," he said.