The Center for Security Policy today lamented recent U.S. responses to events in Lithuania which it believes offers further evidence of a disturbing pattern in Bush Administration foreign policy behavior: The Administration appears disposed to align itself with the forces of "stability" rather than with those who aspire to freedom.
Until recently, the most unsettling example of this departure from fundamental American values has been President Bush’s willingness to accommodate the Chinese government’s brutal repression of democracy in the PRC. Now, even that low point of modern American diplomacy may be surpassed by the President’s refusal to extend diplomatic recognition to — or otherwise aid — Lithuania. With each report of the Lithuanians’ courageous refusal to submit to Mikhail Gorbachev’s heavy-handed intimidation through an array of economic, political, and military techniques, the United States runs an ever greater risk of becoming complicitous in Moscow’s campaign of coercion.
"The Bush Administration has been unable, or unwilling, to do more for Lithuania than issue mildly sympathetic statements, an audit trail for the record calculated neither to perturb the Soviets nor materially assist the captive nation Moscow wishes to continue to dominate," said Frank J. Gaffney, the Center’s director. "Once again, it appears that Washington is willing to let the Soviet Union have it both ways: expanded access to Western capital, technology and energy-related assistance even as it uses these very resources as tools to forestall the bid for freedom in Lithuania."
Roger W. Robinson, Jr., a member of the Center’s Board of Advisors, added, "In an article in the Washington Post today, Jim Hoagland reveals an elaborate web of hidden understandings between Moscow, Bonn, and Washington which involves, in effect, heavy Western payments for Soviet acquiescence to German reunification. One might ask what other private understandings may have been reached between these capitals concerning ‘management’ of Lithuanian independence?"
An Alternative Approach
The Center believes that immediate political and economic measures should be initiated by the United States and its allies to put Moscow on notice that there will be real costs should Moscow continue — to say nothing of escalate — its pressure on Lithuania. Specific actions should include:
- Immediate U.S. recognition of Lithuania’s sovereignty and independence;
- Identical action should be taken by:
- the European Community (EC), particularly by the Federal Republic of Germany which has a special historical responsibility for Lithuania’s current trauma.
- The newly-independent East European countries who should join this chorus in solidarity with their Baltic brethren. (Czechoslovakia’s president Vaclav Havel’s voice could be particularly powerful on this subject.)
- Countries like Nicaragua and Panama, which are themselves in the process of shedding the yoke of authoritarianism.
- Taiwan, Hong Kong and other outposts of freedom should likewise demonstrate their empathy with Lithuania’s plight.
- Advocate Lithuanian membership in the United Nations and convene a security council session on the Soviet threat to Lithuania’s sovereignty.
On the economic front, the ominous level of Soviet activities in Lithuania should prompt the following responses:
- Selective suspension of U.S.-Soviet bilateral economic consultations and negotiations, including those involving the Trade Agreement, Investment Treaty, and Energy Working Group.
- The allies should be pressed to suspend any discussion of Soviet direct participation in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It goes without saying that borrowing privileges should not be granted under any circumstances.
- The suspension of any further liberalization of export controls on militarily relevant technology transfers to the Soviet Union — either domestic or multilateral (i.e., COCOM).
In addition, the United States should promptly lead an alliance-wide effort to construct a safety-net for a free and independent Lithuania comprised of a commitment to callable capital, energy and trade-related resources, designed to offset the effects of Moscow’s strategy of increasing economic and financial warfare. Such steps should include:
- The United States and its allies according Lithuania independent standing (i.e., separate treatment) in all future economic and trade forums, delegations and treaties (notably, membership in international organizations such as the GATT).
- Inclusion of Lithuania, along with Eastern Europe, in a new Contingency Energy Fund (CEF) administered by the G-7 or International Energy Agency (possibly established through an amendment to S.2040, the SEED program for Eastern Europe).
- Introducing a private sector initiative for an independent Lithuania, aimed at fostering economic viability based on free-market principles and full integration into the global trading and financial systems.
Litmus Testing the "New Europe"
The EC and FRG’s emerging leadership on the European continent — largely at the expense of U.S. interests — should be put to an immediate test in Lithuania. Failure to meet their obligations of both recognizing and supporting the Lithuanian bid for freedom should disabuse those unduly optimistic about the character of a "new Europe."
The Center believes it is likely that the evolution of the Lithuanian drama will reaffirm its longstanding belief that there can be no substitute for strong U.S. leadership and engagement on the continent. The Bush Administration’s choice of stability over freedom in China, Azerbaijan and elsewhere has proven to be counterproductive and morally reprehensible. The United States’ own vital stake in displacing totalitarianism with liberty — to say nothing of the Lithuanians’ courageous rejection of Gorbachev’s coercion — demands an end to the recent erosion of American principles and values in our dealings with the Soviet Union.