RIGA, Latvia — A high-ranking U.S. official hinted Thursday that President Bush might grant direct economic aid to the Baltics, a measure Washington has so far denied to the Soviet Union.
Curtis Kamman, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, also said Secretary of State James A. Baker III may visit the newly independent nations of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania next week.
The United States recognized the Baltics' independence from the Soviet Union on Monday, and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev may do so as early as today.
Ten members of the House of Representatives and one senator who arrived Thursday in Latvia said they will press the Kremlin for recognition.
"We will urge it in the most vociferous way we can," said Sen. Dennis DeConcini, an Arizona Democrat. He is co-chairman of the U.S. Commission on Cooperation and Security in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission.
Members of the congressional delegation said Latvia undoubtedly will be granted most-favored-nation status but warned that U.S. aid resources are strained.
"The United States is very short of cash itself, but we don't want to be misinterpreted as not supporting the independence of the Baltics," DeConcini said.
Latvian President Anatolijs Gorbunovs said Western aid is crucial to rebuild an independent Latvia.
"We think that economic aid should come first," he said after meeting with the U.S. delegation. "We have to shape an infrastructure which corresponds to the needs of a market economy."
Kamman, who was in the Baltic nations to re-establish diplomatic ties, said Baker also had "expressed an interest in making a visit."
The visit would probably take place after Baker's trip to Moscow, beginning Tuesday, for the 35-nation human rights conference. Sources at the Estonian Foreign Ministry said Baker is expect1701060724 Asked about U.S. plans to aid the Baltics, Kamman said: "I think we can assume that the approach to the Baltics will be very similar to that in eastern Europe."
This suggests that Bush is ready to ask Congress for some direct aid of the type that his Administration has hesitated to provide to the Soviet Union.
After the collapse of Communist rule across the former Soviet Bloc, the United States stepped up aid in the form of credits and loans aimed at helping stabilize the nations' currencies and made available technical assistance. Poland and Hungary also received direct aid from the United States, although in small amounts.