WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 1991 (UPI) - The failure of the Kremlin coup increases pressure on the Soviet leadership to recognize the independence of the Baltic republics.
It also may force the United States to do more to help Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania make a clean break from the Moscow government.
All three Baltic states -- free nations before their occupation in 1940 under a secret Nazi-Soviet pact -- have declared their independence, actions not recognized by Moscow.
Those mainly symbolic declarations put pressure on Mikhail Gorbachev -- or whatever Soviet leadership that emerges -- to grant recognition.
Gorbachev may now be more amenable to recognition after being restored to his presidency by the heroism of Boris Yeltsin, the Russian Republic president considered sympathetic to Baltic states' aspirations for independence.
The freedom struggle in the Baltics may also have gotten a boost when President Bush referred in his Thursday afternoon news conference to ''the full independence that we would like to see for the Baltic states. ''
The United States has never recognized what it calls the ''forcible incorporation'' of the Baltics.
A State Department spokesman said Thursday the United States will continue to support the aspirations of the Baltic states for freedom.
Even as he spoke, acting Assistant Secretary of State Ralph Johnson met in Washington with representatives of the three republics. It was learned that the Latvian representative requested full recognition by the United States.
Ojars Kalnins, a spokesman for the Latvian legation in Washington, said: ''Yeltsin has expressed support for our independence. With him in a much stronger position, we hope it can be pressed.''
Kalnins suggested that Gorbachev may not fully understand the new pressures for independence because he was held for three days by the coup plotters.
''Hopefully, Yeltsin will bring him up to speed,'' Kalnins said. ''If not, the people in the streets will.''
''It's time to free the Baltics,'' said Rep. Les Aspin, D-Wis. ''It's also time for Washington to change its tune. For years, we've contented ourselves with saying that we don't recognize the Soviet Union's illegal seizure of these once-independent nations. That hasn't done much good for the citizens of the Baltics and it's not good enough now.''
''There is little doubt Baltic independence is coming,'' Aspin said. ''Events in the Soviet Union are on track for it. Washington should be more forthcoming and work with the democratic forces in the Soviet Union to help it along.''
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., chairman of the Helsinki Commission, said Thursday the American delegation will seek ''observer status'' for the Baltic states at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, scheduled for Sept. 10 in Moscow.
The Conference, which focuses on human rights issues, is composed of delegations from 32 European countries, plus the Soviet Union, the United States and Canada.
Hoyer said seeking observer status is ''just a first step toward full recognition and membership'' for independent Baltic states and is significant as a litmus test in that the Soviet Union will have to approve the U.S. request.
David Evans, the Helsinki Commission's senior adviser for Soviet affairs, said he believes the conference, which is expected to draw 15, 000 to 20,000 participants to Moscow, will go ahead despite the recent upheaval in Moscow.
''Our feeling is that they will want to go ahead both to show that they are operating business as usual and to show a continued interest in human rights,'' Evans said.