President Bush, saying he is "increasingly concerned" about developments in the Baltic states, publicly appealed to Soviet leaders yesterday to "resist using force" in disputes with the three breakaway republics.
Speaking to reporters as he returned from a weekend at Camp David, Bush said "the world is very much concerned" following the latest outbreak of violence involving Soviet troops.
Senior U.S. officials said the administration is considering a package of sanctions against the Soviet Union, but has not decided on a specific course of action. The United States is "coordinating closely" with NATO and other European-based organizations, the officials said.
Bronius Kuzmizkas, a vice president of Lithuania who arrived in Washington late last week, said the U.S. reaction "must be of a new kind" in view of the continuing crackdown on democratically elected governments in the Baltic states. "Words must be accompanied by acts," he said in an interview.
Specifically, the Lithuanian official said the United States should channel its humanitarian aid directly to Soviet republics, cities and democratic forces, bypassing the central government in Moscow, and should find a way to assist the Baltic states in placing the issue of their independence and freedoms on the agenda of international organizations.
Kuzmizkas said he also hopes the United States will demand withdrawal of the additional Soviet troops that recently have been sent to the three Baltic states -- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia -- and turnover of all offices and public buildings that have been seized by Moscow's forces.
Kuzmizkas, along with Latvian Vice President Dainis Ivans, is scheduled to meet Secretary of State James A. Baker III this afternoon.
A senior official said yesterday that even before the weekend's violence the administration had been coming under increasing pressure from Republicans in Congress and from other members of Congress with large Baltic ethnic consitutuencies to go beyond verbal pressure on the Soviets.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), one of those urging the White House to take further steps, said yesterday the United States should halt the commodities credit guarantees granted the Soviets last month, reinstitute the Jackson-Vanik amendment restricting trade benefits and consider treating the Baltic States the way the United States treats Taiwan. "We have an institute over there, they have an institute here, and we help them to make it into the world of international relationships and trade," he said.
"There are a lot of people in this country who come from the Baltic States. What's going on there flies in the face of democracy," he said. "The only way we can get through to them is to make it very clear that we're not going to put up with this."
As of late yesterday, Soviet authorities had not responded to an urgent U.S. appeal through the State Department Sunday afternoon that the forceful takeover of the Latvian Interior Ministry building in Riga be ended. The action by a Soviet anti-terrorist unit known as the "black berets" was ended after the building was occupied for about six hours.
Washington officials said it was unclear who was giving orders to the "black beret" troops, who normally are under the control of the Soviet Ministry of the Interior.
White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh is expected in Washington later this week to see Baker and a summit planned next month between Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is still "up in the air."
Officials said that among the reasons for Bessmertnykh's visit is his wish to bid farewell to officials of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, where he was ambassador from last May until Jan. 15, when he was named foreign minister.