Latvia's `Go Slow' Approach

Article excerpt

THE iron resolve of the Lithuanians for independence from the Soviet Union has made an impression on the entire world. The Baltics are going to be heard from until they get their independence, or at least their political autonomy.

Yet the strong secessionist stance taken by Lithuania - and the resulting Soviet crackdown - seem to have provided a helpful case study for the Latvians. Their approach to independence is proving more malleable. They have adopted a line of trying to "work with" Gorbachev and the Kremlin. They want a measured "transitional independence" rather than "immediate independence." They won't scotch the Soviet constitution entirely in the process. They are giving Gorbachev some maneuvering room.

Certainly much of the "space" Latvia is giving Gorbachev is symbolic. Latvia hasn't differed fundamentally in its demands from either Lithuania or Estonia. Latvia wants its lawful sovereignty. The Latvian legislature is invoking its former constitution, and its old state emblem. It has rightly denounced the new Soviet secessionist law, which requires a two-thirds vote by a republic's electorate, a five-year transition period, and final approval by the Soviet Congress of People's Deputies. …