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Soviets relax bear hug on Poland

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The Soviet Union seems to have reconciled itself to plans for an emergency meeting of the Polish Communist Party congress July 14, despite earlier warnings from Moscow that the meeting could turn into a platform for "antisocialists."

This is how most Western diplomats are reading a joint Soviet-Polish communique released here late July 5, its general business- as-usual tone in sharp contrast to Soviet criticism and alarm conveyed to Polish Communist leaders in a note one month ago.

But the Soviets' "Polish crisis" is by no means over, and the latest communique closes no Kremlin options in dealing with it.

The statement, following a visit to Warsaw by Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, could also, conceivably, mean a lot less than the diplomats say it does.

In early August 1968, a similarly low-key communique followed a Warsaw Pact summit amid the crisis over reform in Czechoslovakia. Foreign analysts breathed a sigh of relief. Barely two weeks later, a Soviet-led invasion force rumbled into Prague.

The two situations are different. But the parallel is helpful, if only as a reminder of how little any outside analyst can say with confidence about Soviet policy intentions.

But for the time being, the strong consensus among foreign diplomats in the Soviet capital is that the emergency Polish Communist congress will go ahead as planned despite concerns the Kremlin had voiced earlier. Soviet policy beyond the congress is seen as largely dependent on what that conference produces and on how Polish reformists act after it is over.

The diplomats suggest several reasons for assuming that Moscow has reconciled itself to plans for the Polish congress, only one of which is the wording of the July 5 communique.

A Soviet move to get the conference postponed, it is argued here, could risk bringing Poles into the streets, in effect diminishing the Kremlin's nonmilitary options for dealing with the Polish crisis.


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