THE European Community's decision on Tuesday to go forward with $1 billion worth of credits to the Soviet Union comes in spite of concern over the Kremlin's crackdown in the Baltic states. In January, the EC took the international lead by reproaching Moscow for using military force against independence-seeking Lithuania and Latvia. The foreign ministers of the 12-nation European Community decided to suspend technical assistance and food aid, a move that was reversed this week.
``By cutting off aid to the Soviet Union, you contribute to the breakup of the country,'' says James Elles, a member of the European Parliament from Britain and a spokesman for the budget committee.
The chaos caused by the USSR's breakup would place Europe at risk, he says. ``Today, 350,000 troops remain within the territory of the European Community, in the former East Germany,'' says Mr. Elles. Cutting off newly emerging EC-Soviet ties is ill-advised, he warns.
``So long as the process of glasnost is not dead, which is what [Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev has been trying to tell us, we have to keep the window open. We don't want to go back to a period of cold war ... to a point when the shutters are closed.''
The EC deplores Mr. Gorbachev's repressive action in the republics, says Elles. ``The Soviet annexation of the Baltics in 1940 has not been recognized by the Western world.'' Disbursement of the funds is based, he says, ``on the continuance of economic reform in the Soviet Union.''
Washington's $1.2 billion agricultural and export credit assistance to Moscow remains in limbo, as Bush administration officials hear pleas to deal directly with individual Soviet republics instead of the central government. While the White House recently allocated medical assistance explicitly for the Baltic states, it falls short of establishing direct links. The emergency package is to be routed through Moscow.
Leaders of Soviet republics, from Georgia to Latvia, say their needs are overshadowed by President Bush's preoccupation with the Gulf war and his need to preserve Soviet participation in the coalition against Iraq.
The vice presidents of Latvia and Lithuania, two republics that have been under siege by the Soviet Army, visited Washington in recent weeks to lobby White House and congressional support against Moscow's repression.
``We have asked the US to make it clear to the USSR that the violence will have serious implications for US-USSR relations,'' says Bronious Kuzmickas, vice president of Lithuania.
But the administration is intent on maintaining strong links to the Kremlin. Secretary of State James Baker III has said the administration is reluctant to put recent progress in US-Soviet relations ``in jeopardy.'' And President Bush has declared his intention ``to preserve this relationship as best I can.''