It has been a long time since the two superpowers have been able to count on their allies for lock-step support of their policies and lately there is evidence that the breakdown in discipline is accelerating.
The signs of restiveness extend from Panama to Poland. The demise of the concept of a bipolar world order has left both Washington and Moscow with difficult adjustments to make.If the United States finds its allies balkier than before, it can at least take comfort that the Kremlin seems to be in a similar fix.
May Day used to be cause for celebration in the Soviet bloc, the occasion when the intended beneficiaries of Marxism - the workers - showed their gratitude to their system and their rulers.
But this May Day, Polish authorities found themselves confronting the most serious industrial strikes since 1982. The government appears to have survived the challenge for the time being but the unrest once again raised doubts about stability in Poland and its reliability as a Soviet ally.
In Panama, the U.S. effort to force Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega to step down is beginning its 12th week. The administration had hoped to arrange a quick exit for Noriega and its failure to do so thus far has become a major embarrassment.
Recent negotiations indicate a willingness by Noriega to resign at some point but the evidence suggests that his departure may be based more on his terms than the Reagan administration's.
Underscoring Noriega's contemptuous attitude toward Washington are the gestures of friendship he has been making toward the two principal U.S. rivals in the hemisphere, Nicaragua and Cuba.
There are other signs of waning superpower clout:
-Denmark, over U.S. objections, may tighten loopholes in its existing - though widely ignored - ban on allowing nuclear armed ships to enter Danish ports. Final approval of the proposal could end NATO military cooperation with Denmark. New Zealand, because of its anti-nuclear policies, ceased to be a U.S. military ally two years ago.
-Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev has given up the nine-year Soviet effort to tame anti-communist reb-els in Afghanistan and soon will begin a troop withdrawal without achieving most of his objectives.
-Spain has ordered the U.S. to remove 72 American F-16 fighters from its territory, another indication of that country's determination to limit military cooperation with Western allies.