Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev pressed his economic revolution while preparing for Friday's long-awaited arms control ceremony with President Bush. He called for expanded trade with the United States but told congressional leaders it would be "humiliating" to beg.
At the same time, the Soviet leader said a "gesture" from the United States on trade would be useful, "especially politically," to him at home."Certainly we're not asking for a free ride. We'll be asking for a normal credit and of course we'll be paying" our debts, he said. The United States wants to see a dialogue between Gorbachev and Lithuanian officials before implementing any trade agreement.
Gorbachev arrived at the White House shortly before noon for talks with Bush on the second day of their four-day summit. The late afternoon highlight was a ceremony to lock in limits on long-range nuclear arms and chemical weapons.
Gorbachev met with the congressional delegation in an ornate, chandeliered room at the Soviet Embassy. "This is a genuine revolution. Please don't be frightened," Gorbachev urged at a free-wheeling meeting.
Gorbachev's session with congressional leaders was remarkable for its frankness - and for its live television. Members of Congress urged Gorbachev to bend in his policies toward Lithuania and the other Baltic republics seeking independence. The Soviet leader noted that China had received most favored nation trading status despite the crackdown in Tiananmen Square a year ago. "Maybe we should introduce martial rule in the Baltics," he said sarcastically.
The Soviet president said the world's interest is served by a strong Soviet Union and a strong United States. From his troubled pulpit, he cautioned his guests against "fishing in troubled waters . . . I think that is bad politics." Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell of Maine, for one, sparred with the Soviet president, predicting at one point that a poll of Lithuanians would show that most support independence.
Gorbachev replied, "Fine, let them do it and we will agree - but only through a constitutional process."
Gorbachev arrived in Washington this week hoping his four-day summit with Bush might result in a trade agreement worked out several weeks ago. The Soviet leader heard from Senate Republican leader Bob Dole that trade accords were politically linked to a lessening of Gorbachev's economic pressures against Lithuania.
The Bush-Gorbachev summit has been shadowed by disputes over Germany and Lithuania - but Friday's sessions were sure to end in celebration. The leaders were signing agreements for long-sought curbs on strategic nuclear weapons and poison gas.
In his session with congressional leaders, Gorbachev said he hears talk in America that "The Soviet Union is so weak we can defeat him with just one step. That's not serious."
Reporters heard Gorbachev express optimism that he and Bush could agree on a "good foundation" that would outline key elements of a treaty on long range nuclear weapons.