WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State James A. Baker III warned the Soviet Union yesterday that "perestroika cannot succeed at gunpoint" and said that its Foreign Ministry may have lost the clout to make lasting arms control deals.
"In the last several months . . . we have seen a series of unsettling events," Mr. Baker told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "They include the tragic violence in the Baltics, an apparent turn toward economic recentralization, a less free media, extension of army and KGB authority and the resignation or departure from the government of key reform advocates.
"These actions are completely inconsistent with the course of peaceful change, democratic principles, the rule of law and real economic reform," he said, expressing hope that the Soviets would quickly relearn that "the old ways are not the right ways" and that "perestroika [openness] cannot succeed at gunpoint."
Mr. Baker's comments were his bluntest since the resignation of For
eign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze late last year, when Mr. Baker said the minister's warnings that the Soviet Union was drifting toward dictatorship had to be taken seriously.
They reflected a new tension in U.S.-Soviet relations, prompted both by the Kremlin's crackdown on the Baltics and by alleged Soviet circumvention of the conventional forces agreement signed last year.
The Soviets reclassified three armored divisions as naval infantry, in what the United States says was a move to put them outside the treaty's terms of reductions.
Mr. Baker said the United States was concerned about "the degree to which the Foreign Ministry can follow through on commitments made on some of these arms control matters," a reference to increasing power of the Soviet military in concluding and carrying out agreements.
"When we have problems such as this affecting the conventional forces agreement that go to the heart of, at least as we see it . . . credibility and trust, it makes it much more difficult to conclude other agreements."
He said the United States would be directing "a large part" of the medical relief in its aid to the Baltics.