The House yesterday expressed its displeasure with the Soviet crackdown in the Baltic states by passing, 417 to 0, a resolution condemning Soviet violence there and calling on Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to cease immediately the use of force.
The nonbinding measure also calls on President Bush to work toward "a coordinated approach on economic sanctions" with U.S. allies in Europe if the Soviets persist in using military force to suppress popularly elected governments in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said it is too soon to cancel any economic credits with the Soviet Union. "I do not believe any conclusive action should be taken at this point," said Foley. But he said Congress "should continue to press its viewpoint" that "these things are in real jeopardy if the conditions do not improve."
The unanimous vote in the House reflected a growing congressional concern that the crackdowns in Lithuania and Latvia are not isolated incidents but represent a fundamental change in Soviet domestic policy and a basic change in the political orientation of Gorbachev.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.) said during debate on the resolution Tuesday that "Gorbachev, whether under duress or by design, is clearly trying to coerce the people and leaderships of the three Baltic states to abandon their quest for self-determination and independence."
The committee's ranking Republican, Rep. William S. Broomfield (Mich.), said, "I'd like to be able to say that the events of the last few weeks were the work of a few out-of-control colonels and generals. But every day it becomes more clear that the source of the violence sits in the Kremlin."
Rep. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), one of the initiators of the resolution, said a congressional expression that Bush consider postponing the planned Feb. 11-13 summit meeting with Gorbachev was deleted from the resolution after the White House objected. Durbin said that in the interest of a quick and overwhelming vote, the measure's sponsors also agreed to delete a recommendation that Bush consider suspending trade and economic assistance to the Soviets.
White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said "the decision on the summit is still an open question" for Bush. Fitzwater listed the situation in the Baltics third and last among possible reasons for postponing the summit. Other reasons might be the progress of the Persian Gulf War and the status of U.S.-Soviet arms control talks, Fitzwater said.
Administration officials said any decision to postpone the summit probably would not be based primarily on the Baltic issue and is likely to be worked out with Gorbachev before being announced.
Fitzwater said U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Jack Matlock met with officials of the Soviet Foreign Ministry on Tuesday "to reiterate our deep concern about the ongoing situation and to urge the Soviet government to act to end its use of force in the Baltics."
Through a wide variety of channels, Fitzwater said, "the United States has sought to make clear to the government of the Soviet Union our condemnation of their intimidation and use of force in the Baltic states."