President Bush is condemning the bloody Soviet crackdown against independence forces in Lithuania and appealing to Soviet leaders to stop the violence or risk rupturing the new U.S.-Soviet partnership.
Bush declined to say Sunday whether he would still go to Moscow next month for a summit to sign a nuclear arms treaty if the crackdown continued.But he called the deaths of 14 Lithuanians in a Vilnius television station stormed by tanks and paratroopers "a great tragedy" that threatens to throw improving U.S.-Soviet relations off course.
"I ask the Soviet leaders to refrain from further acts that might lead to more violence and more loss of lives," said Bush.
"We condemn these acts, which could not help but affect our relationship," he said. "There is no justification for the use of force against peaceful and democratically elected governments."
Bush said the "progress of reform in the USSR has been an essential element in the improvement of U.S.-Soviet relations."
"Events like those now taking place in the Baltic states threaten to set back or perhaps even reverse the process of reform which is so important in the world and the development of the new international order," he said.
However, Bush said he did not think the crackdown - or his criticism of the Kremlin - would jeopardize Soviet support for the U.S.-led effort to force Iraq out of Kuwait.
Secretary of State James A. Baker III echoed those sentiments as he met with allies in Turkey and England on Sunday.
Baker said he was "deeply disturbed and saddened" by the crackdown, which he said "tragically contradicts the basic principles" of Gorbachev's moves to bring democracy and economic reforms to the Soviet Union.