Cardin presses Soviets on Baltics

January 15, 1991|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- With the bloody Soviet crackdown in Lithuania serving as a backdrop, Representative Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.-3rd, is once again pushing a measure that would tie normalized trade relations between the Soviet Union and the United States to independence for the Baltic states.

"I want [the Soviet Union] to respect the rights of the Baltic states," said the Baltimore Democrat. His bill would link most-favored-nation trading status -- which offers the lowest tariffs -- to Soviet progress in negotiations toward self-determination for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

The measure -- initially introduced last summer -- takes on new urgency, said the congressman, after Soviet troops stormed a television studio in Vilnius early Sunday, killing 14 and injuring at least 140. Mr. Cardin, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which will hold hearings on the measure, said he has yet to find a co-sponsor in the Senate for the legislation.

However, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., said on the floor of the Senate yesterday that she would "push strongly for a moratorium on all cooperative projects with the Soviet Union until violence stops and the Baltic states are allowed to follow their chosen course of government."

Mr. Cardin said he feared the Soviet Union may be returning to the repression of the "old regime" but should realize that after declaring independence last year, "the Baltics will never go back."

The Soviet Union already has been denied expanded U.S. trade rights through the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which ties most-favored-nation status to the passage of a liberalized emigration law by the Soviet parliament.

President Bush granted a waiver last month to that amendment and offered the Soviets $1 billion in credit guarantees to buy food, primarily grain, from private U.S. sources.

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