Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has called for the United States to form direct diplomatic ties to Soviet republics that have established democratically elected governments - and not to deal solely with the Kremlin.

"Those who sought above all else to help (Soviet President Mikhail) Gorbachev secure his grip on power made the mistake not only of pinning their hopes on a single leader, but also of picking the wrong man."Hatch said that in his first hearing as a new member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with Secretary of State James Baker III as the witness to discuss his departmental budget.

Hatch said he is concerned by the apparent backsliding by Gorbachev on reform and said the United States should try to bolster the Baltic states and others that are trying to form democratic governments.

Gorbachev "did not seek genuine democracy, but only a controlled democracy that would ratify his policies. He did not seek to abandon socialism, but rather to revitalize socialism," Hatch said.

To bolster Soviet reform, Hatch said, "The United States should seek to open in each Soviet republic that holds genuine free elections the same kind of nominally unofficial U.S. institute that has existed in the Republic of Taiwan for over a decade.

"Such institutes, in turn, would allow us to develop further political and economic ties, and their mere existence would raise the political cost of further repression of the democratic republics by the Kremlin."

Hatch said that reformists such as Russian Republic President Boris Yeltsin "in fact represent more people than Gorbachev does. . . . They have substantial control over their own economies and resources, and some are seeking to introduce their own currencies."