The trampling of Baltic freedoms is producing a backlash in Washington. By a 417-0 vote, the House of Representatives has condemned Soviet violence and called on President Bush to work toward "a coordinated approach on economic sanctions," if the Kremlin continues to suppress popularly elected governments in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The European Parliament, for its part, already has suspended $1.5 billion in food and technical aid to the Soviet Union.
These are understandable gestures of disenchantment and ire. They are based on the assumption that while the Soviets may shrug off verbal protests, they have to consider the impact of economic penalties. In reality, Soviets already have spent much of the previously authorized U.S. aid. Thus the only really effective lever is to deny Moscow any new economic aid, as long as central authorities permit continuing violations of democratic principles. This is a posture we urge the Bush administration to take.
At the same time, we cannot agree with voices in Washington that urge cancellation of next month's scheduled summit meeting in Moscow. In our view, the twin crises in the Baltics and the Persian Gulf make it even more important than before for Presidents Bush and Gorbachev to meet. That is not "appeasement," just practical politics. If superpower relations are not to return to Cold War tensions, the presidents of both countries have to be able to maintain open channels.