Poland awaits West's reaction to amnesty for political prisoners
Poland's sweeping amnesty for political prisoners, announced in Warsaw Saturday, raises two vital questions: * How far will it bolster the process of national conciliation pursued by Poland's prime minister, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, against the tougher inclinations of hard-liners in Poland's Communist Party and some Warsaw Pact allies?
* What - after initially cautious reactions - will be the West's response, and how quickly will the United States in particular, begin to lift sanctions against Poland and agree to a rescheduling of Poland's massive debts?
The amnesty - announced as part of 40th anniversary celebrations of Communist rule in Poland - is expected to free all of Poland's 660 political prisoners, according to government spokesman Jerzy Urban. The amnesty also includes thousands of persons jailed for nonpolitical crimes.
Until the last moment there was uncertainty whether the amnesty would include the seven members of Solidarity's national committee facing the prospect of trial and the four members of the Workers' Defense Committee (KOR), who were already on trial.
Now that they have, in fact, been included, there remains doubt only about the fate of a few major Solidarity figures captured in recent months, and the activist underground handful led by the young union radical, Zbigniew Bujak.
As martial law was being eased and eventually lifted last year, a limited amnesty was offered to all who came out of hiding and gave up underground activities by a certain deadline. The Bujak group rejected the offer.
Unless they elect to abandon their struggle, it is conceivable they would not be immune from future indictment if and when they fell into the authorities' hands.
Such a consideration might affect those now being freed, were they to resume political work contrary to legislation on ''anti-state'' activity which the authorities tightened during martial law. Such possibilities probably explain the cautious note of first American and other Western reactions to the prisoners' release.
Both the West and the Roman Catholic Church, however, had made a change of their attitudes conditional on amnesty for political prisioners. After last year's partial amnesty, Polish leaders were angered by Washington's refusal to recognize it as a substantial enough step to warrant significant modification of the American position.
At that time, the Reagan administration merely reopened American fishing grounds to the Poles and allowed the Polish airline to resume charter but not commercial flights to the US.
Many observers feel it will be extremely difficult not to do something more meaningful this time, if only because President Reagan has always made release of political prisoners an essential condition for any real warming of relations with the Jaruzelski government since martial law was imposed.
In making an umbrella amnesty - above all, including the four prominent Solidarity advisers - General Jaruzelski is likely to feel he has gone a long way to radically change the situation as far as the West is concerned and that the West should respond accordingly.
His government, predictably, disavows that amnesty is a move to appease Western critics. It has insisted all along that amnesty would be - and now is - a considered response to the ''stabilization'' of the country, and not a step dictated by pressures, political or economic, from any quarter.
The church has already expressed satisfaction with the releases as a step toward national reconciliation. Realistically, it had no other option, though reportedly the Polish primate has expressed in a letter to parliament a further wish for a return to ''free'' trade unions.
[Daniel Southerland reports from Washington that initial US reaction to the amnesty decision has been cautious. The Reagan administration, however, is expected to respond with some limited lifting of US economic sanctions.
[Pressure to move in this direction is expected to come from West European nations, which were reluctant in the first place to impose sanctions.
[Experts say the easiest thing for the US to do is to lift the ban on commerical Polish airline flights to the US.
[But the Polish government has yet to respond to the principal points in President Reagan's position which are that the authorities should open a dialogue or negotiation, between government and people, and implement effective economic reforms.
[The West Europeans - and West Germans in particular - appear anxious to reschedule the debt payments Poland owes them. But the US is not thought likely at this point to take steps to ease Poland's debt burden.]
Although Poland's Warsaw Pact allies were strongly represented at the weekend anniversary, only the Soviets and Hungary sent prime ministers. The more dogmatic allies in East Europe sent lesser figures.
Presumably General Jaruzelski's handling of affairs still has the Soviets' general acquiescence.
A Western failure, however, to make a serious response to the amnesty - on the debt issue, for example, even if gradual restoration of American most-favored-nation trading terms takes longer - may only make Jaruzelski's political tightrope more hazardous than it already is.