Mixed Lithuanian reaction greets U.S. recognition THE SOVIET CRISIS

September 03, 1991|By New York Times News Service

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA — Lithuanian officials reacted ambivalently yesterday to the announcement that the United States was granting diplomatic recognition to their government.

They were pleased to have the political protection that it implies but irritated that it did not come sooner.

No one expressed the ambivalence more clearly than President Vytautas Landsbergis, who left Lithuania yesterday for a one-day trip to Budapest and was unavailable for comment.

A spokesman said Mr. Landsbergis had not known that the announcement of American recognition was to be made yesterday, though President Bush called him on Friday and said that he would have a significant announcement yesterday. Lithuanian journalists speculated that Mr.Landsbergis' absence was a signal of displeasure with American policy.

More than 30 nations recognized Lithuania during the second half of August. Several have already named ambassadors.

U.S. policy, like that of some other Western powers, was to postpone recognition briefly, apparently as a gesture to President Mikhail S. Gorbachev of the Soviet Union. But officials here consider Mr. Gorbachev one of their principal enemies and disapprove of any policy designed to strengthen him.

Lithuanian politicians said they believed they would receive some aid from the United States but not as much as they are expecting from European countries.

All three Baltic republics, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, are likely soon to become affiliated with the European Community but will probablynot become full members for some years.

American recognition of the Baltic republics may encourage private investment in the region, but experts believe that for at least the next few years, investors will prefer to risk their money in Estonia and Latvia rather than in Lithuania.

"I can tell you from conversations I have had in recent days that some important foreign investors are skeptical about Lithuania," said Kazimiera Prunskiene, who was Lithuania's prime minister until January. She was dismissed after Mr. Landsbergis concluded that her anti-Sovietism was not militant enough, and she now heads the parliamentary opposition.

"For many people here," she said, "it is psychologically very important that Lithuania break all of its ties with the Soviet Union as soon as possible. But economically, that policy will create great problems for us."

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