Emergency Alliance Consultations Are Needed To Map A Common Response To The Coming Soviet Crackdown In The Baltics

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(Washington, D.C.): The Center for Security Policy today called for immediate alliance consultations aimed at providing powerful disincentives to potential Soviet repression in the Baltic states, including developing a common, punitive response to such repression should it occur. In particular, the West must selectively use its economic, financial and technological leverage to affect events in the Soviet bloc.

Toward this end the United States should act immediately and unilaterally to signal its concern over the possibility of such a crackdown: Remove from the agenda of the upcoming Baker-Shevardnadze meetings in Wyoming (on September 19-20) the planned agreement to form a joint U.S.-Soviet economic working group. This senior negotiating group is intended to catalyze a series of American economic and financial concessions to the USSR. The indefinite deferral of any such discussions would get Moscow’s attention; it might even save Baltic lives and help to advance the prospects for greater freedom in the Captive Nations.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., the Center’s director said, "Moscow has put the Baltic peoples on notice: Their present demands for basic human liberties and political freedoms are unacceptable to the Soviet government. In extremely strong language, the USSR has directly threatened the Captive Nations if they do not desist in their agitation for independence."

For example, the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee, at the behest of the ruling Politburo, has said the following (emphasis added):

  • "The fate of the Baltic peoples is in serious danger. People should know into what abyss they are being pushed by the nationalist leaders."
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  • "The consequences could be disastrous for these peoples if the nationalists manage to achieve their goals. The very viability of the Baltic nations could be called in question."
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  • "A real threat of a civil conflict and mass street clashes…has arisen."
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  • "The situation that [has arisen] calls for…resolute, urgent measures to clean the perestroika process in the Baltic republics from extremism, destructive and harmful tendencies."
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  • "The CPSU Central Committee urgently calls on…all those who cherish their homeland, peace and national accord to realize the full extent and reality of impending disaster…."
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  • "Developments [in the Baltics] affect the vital interests of the entire Soviet people, our entire socialist motherland."

 

"At a similar moment in 1981, the United States and its allies engaged in high-level consultations aimed at charting a course for collective action in the event the Soviet Union intervened in Poland, as then appeared imminent," Gaffney noted. "There is reason to believe that such discussions — and the prospect they raised that the threatened Soviet intervention would result in severe economic repercussions — were instrumental in preventing that action. While President Bush has properly urged the Soviet Union to exercise restraint, this is far less than was done in 1981 and, unless matched by concerted alliance action, will surely prove inadequate."

Over last weekend, the Center released a paper entitled Fifty Years of Tyranny: The Intolerable Legacy of the Nazi-Soviet Agreements of August 1939. This paper calls upon the Soviet Union to renounce the historical basis for the USSR’s seizure of the Baltic states — the notorious 1939 Hitler-Stalin Non-Aggression Pact. It also urges Moscow to accede to the demands of the people of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania who yearn for rights they have been denied for five decades.

Gennadi Gerasimov, the Soviet spokesman, however, made it clear that the statement issued by the Central Committee has the full authority of President Gorbachev and the Politburo. It evidently was accompanied by at least two phone calls made by Gorbachev personally to Lithuanian Communist Party chief Brazauskas, warning him to terminate the activities of nationalist "extremists."

"Far from showing that glasnost and perestroika have real force and effect in the Soviet Union, the Soviets have revealed in their latest, highly publicized threats aimed at the people of the Baltic states that the heavy hand of Brezhnev remains at the helm of the USSR," Gaffney said.

Gaffney added, "Unless leaders of the West take timely and concerted action to show that there will be real costs for Stalinesque behavior toward the Baltics — as was done in 1981 the responsibility for the coming Soviet crackdown will be widely seen to lie partly in the democratic nations, who chose to do nothing."

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