The enormous drama of Pope John Paul II's eight-day visit to Poland has exposed again the elements of the conflict over Poland which make life so difficult and dangerous for the Polish people. The visit could not, and did not, dissolve those elements of conflict.
The visit reconfirmed what we have all known, that the hearts and yearnings of the Polish people are with the West. Their religion is Roman Catholic, overwhelmingly. Their national hero and their true leader is their Polish Pope. They want the independence which would permit them to trade with the West, associate with the West, and in particular feel closer to the country to which so many Poles have migrated, the United States. (There are 8.5 million Poles in the US.)
All of this the Pope asserted when he met, or confronted, the present head of the Polish government, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. He said, ''I ardently desire the re-creation of conditions of good cooperation with all the Western nations on our continent, as well as in the Americas, above all with the United States of America, where so many millions of citizens are of Polish origin.''
He mentioned the date, Dec. 13, 1981, when the imposition of martial law put an end to ''good cooperation'' between Poland and the Western nations.
The general listened with fists clenched. His key statement made in defense of martial law was the following:
''The commonly known course of events made us take a dramatically difficult but indispensable decision. We took it in extremis, as an ultimate choice.''
Two days earlier, in Moscow, the Sovet Union's foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko, made a speech which explains what General Jaruzelski meant when he said martial law had been imposed ''in extremis,'' why it was ''indispensable,'' and why, in his mind, it was an ''ultimate choice.'' Mr. Gromyko said:
''Poland . . . has been and remains an inalienable part of the socialist community.''
This, of course, is simply a restatement of ''the Brezhnev doctrine'' which denies to any member of the Warsaw Pact the freedom to leave that community.
There is not the slightest reason to doubt that the Kremlin intends to maintain the Brezhnev Doctrine and will continue to do so as long as it has the physical capability of hanging onto those countries, including Poland, which are members (per force) of the Warsaw Pact.
The history of Eastern Europe since World War II is sufficient to establish the point.
Bulgaria is the most willing satellite. It is comfortable with its assocation with Moscow for reasons some of which are unique. Russia helped liberate the Bulgarians from Turkish rule. There has long been a strong pan-Slav feeling among Bulgarians. The pre-communist era religion of Bulgaria was Eastern Orthodox, not Roman Catholic.
Romania is a semi-willing satellite. Its population to this day is about 80 percent Orthodox (70 percent Romanian Orthodox, 10 percent Greek Orthodox). Only 14 percent is Roman Catholic.
Neither Bulgaria nor Romania has reached for independence from Moscow. As a result they are not occupied by Soviet troops.
The others have all reached for independence, and all know the consequences. Soviet tanks put down a workers' rising in East Berlin, reimposed by ruthless force a Soviet-picked regime on Hungary, and did the same thing to Czechoslovakia. The only difference in the Polish story is that the Soviets allowed the Polish Army to do it. Had the Polish Army declined to drag Poland back into the Soviet system, the Soviet Army would have done the deed. The result would have been more unpleasant for Poland.
Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and East Germany are all Western in their cultural background and orientation. All would join the West if free to do so. All are held back by Soviet armed forces capable of enforcing Soviet discipline on them. All live behind the front line of Soviet troops in Europe. All are territories under occupation by the armed forces of the Soviet Union.
The Poles yearn for independence and freedom to associate with the West. We join the Pope in yearning for that freedom for them. But the armed forces of the Soviet Union are around them. The Kremlin is determined to keep them there.
The Polish longing and the Brezhnev Doctrine are irreconcilables.