Jim Hoagland is to be commended for his op-ed article {"Gorbachev: The Bitter Reality," Jan. 15}, pointing out the key weakness in President Bush's Soviet policy, which seems to be unwavering support for Mr. Gorbachev. The facts of the events in Lithuania and Mr. Gorbachev's support for the bloody violence against unarmed civilians indicate that heavy-handed repression by the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is the order of the day. These facts must indicate to Mr. Bush that either Mr. Gorbachev is not in charge or Mr. Gorbachev is no longer the "reformer" the president wishes him to be. In either case, expending further political capital in Mr. Gorbachev's defense would not only harm the aspiring democratic movements in the Soviet Union but also the U.S. long-term foreign policy in Eastern Europe.

It is not too late for Mr. Bush to mend his ways. He should first send an unequivocal message to Mr. Gorbachev expressing his condemnation of the bloodshed in Lithuania, regardless of what Mr. Gorbachev's "personal" role might have been. Cancellation of the February summit and suspension of the grain credits would be two ways to get Moscow's attention. Then he should start to actively support the democratic and free-market movements in the Soviet Union. These would include the democratically elected governments of the Baltic states and the Soviet republics, which have expressed a desire for independence.

If Mr. Bush wants to deal on a personal basis, he should perhaps turn to Boris Yeltsin, whose expression of extreme outrage at the bloodshed in Vilnius makes Mr. Bush's tepid comments shameful by comparison.

AGU R. ETS Laurel