Stalemate in Poland
The Polish affair continued during the past week, its sixth, to chill East-West relations and delay normal business between Washington and Moscow.
But US Secretary of State Alexander Haig managed to keep the lines open to Moscow in spite of mounting pressure from the right wing of his own Republican Party.
There was no sign of an early resolution of the Polish affair. Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, who heads the military regime in Poland, faced the parliament and disappointed both left and right. His analysis of the situation promised neither the early end to martial law that the labor unions want nor the reimposition of a hard-line political dictatorship that the communist party and, presumably Moscow, want.
The prospect for Poland appeared to be more of the same - with the Roman Catholic Church pleading to all factions for ''a return to the path of dialogue between the authorities and society.''
It is not clear whether the labor movement, Solidarity, is committed to decisive underground resistance. Passive resistance to the regime continues in some areas, particularly in the Silesian coal fields. But Western observers reported a general decline in tension and a return to what might be called apathetic normality.
There was doubt among some Western observers in Warsaw whether General Jaruzelski can maintain himself indefinitely. A pastoral letter from the Catholic bishops was read in all Polish churches Jan. 24. It warned the regime that continued denial of freedom to the Polish people ''is the road to protest, to rebellion, and may even lead to fratricidal strife.''
But if the general restores freedom, he might be overthrown in a palace coup manipulated by Moscow through the local communist party. Apparently he is not strong enough politically to be able either to relax military law or to stamp out freedom entirely.
Several members of the parliament spoke out against martial law. The church continues to express dissent not only in the churches. Its message also goes out over the state-operated broadcasting system. The opposition has not been smothered.
For Secretary Haig in Washington the unresolved nature of the Polish situation poses both opportunity and difficulty. He keeps attention focused on it for propaganda reasons. Anti-Soviet street demonstrations in Western Europe are a plus for US policy, a minus for Moscow. As Mr. Haig said in an interview in the magazine US News and World Report:
''It would not serve our purpose to substitute demonstrations on nuclear armaments for demonstrations against the Polish crackdown.''
To keep in a favorable propaganda position among the European allies, he must keep alive the prospect of an agreement with the Soviets to restrict medium-range nuclear weapons in the European area and must resume talks with them on long-range strategic weapons.
To that end he has managed to allow the talks on the medium weapons to go along in Geneva. And he went to Geneva himself for a day of talking with Moscow's foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko.
The trip to Geneva was made under difficulty. The Republican conservatives have been urging a complete break in all dealings with the Soviets.
Henry Kissinger, who promoted ''detente'' when he was Secretary of State, has gone over to the hard-liners. He came out recently with a declaration that the United States should have declared ''a moratorium on high-level contacts with the Soviet Union'' until martial law was lifted in Poland.
Originally the Geneva talk was supposed to have lasted two days. Mr. Haig cut it to one to pacify his domestic critics, and claimed to have lectured Mr. Gromyko on Poland. Mr. Gromyko stood on the Moscow position that Poland is none of Mr. Haig's business. Moscow denied that Mr. Gromyko had discussed Poland with Mr. Haig.
The net of the matter is that the Polish affair postponed certainly for the time being the idea of a Reagan-Brezhnev conference that, in turn, could launch a new negotiation toward limits on strategic nuclear weapons. That, in turn, means that the time is growing short for the weapons talks that must go forward soon if anything is to be achieved before the next presidential election year, when serious negotiation is put aside for domestic politics.
The death in Moscow of chief Soviet ideologist Mikhail Suslov might also have some bearing on the future of strategic weapons talks. He was an important part of the older generation of leadership. He represented continuity and consistency in Soviet policymaking.
With Suslov's passing the time automatically comes nearer when a new generation will take over the Soviet leadership from the last of those who can actually remember the revolution and were disciples of the founding fathers of the Soviet Union.
Will the eventual new leadership in the Kremlin be less interested in limiting nuclear weapons than the present leaders? If there is to be a new and lower limit on such weapons, it would probably be wise to try to get it while the old leadership of Leonid Brezhnev is still in charge.
There have been two other items in the past week's news worthy of notice.
In effect, the Soviets have excommunicated the Italian Communist Party. The Polish affair was the precipitating incident. That had been too much for the Italian party to swallow.
Moscow accused the Italian party of ''direct aid to imperialism.'' It was one of the strongest criticisms ever launched from Moscow against a supposedly fraternal branch of the world communist movement. The Italian party replied with an equally strongly worded rejection, which asserted that ''democracy and socialism must be united.''
That was a plus for Washington, of course. But what happened in Cairo was otherwise. The Egyptian Foreign Office confirmed reports that the new government headed by Hosni Mubarak ''requested the assistance of 66 Soviet experts in the sphere of cooperation between the two countries in major projects.''
Mr. Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat, virtually broke off relations with the Soviet Union last September. At that time he expelled the Soviet ambassador, most of the Soviet Embassy staff, Soviet journalists, and most Soviet experts. Mr. Mubarak has indicated that he wants to get Egyptian relations with Moscow back on a normal basis.
The 66 Soviet experts are expected to be a first step in moving Egypt away from being a client and dependent of the US into a balanced position between the two great powers.