This article examines the official U.S. reaction to the Soviet government's use of force in the Baltic republics in January 1991, not only showing the complexity of the U.S. position but also demonstrating how reactions in Washington became harsher in the space of a week, eroding the previous “Gorbachev first” attitude. The article identifies the main reasons for this shift, especially West European reactions, domestic pressures, and growing concerns that violence in the Baltics marked the end of perestroika. The analysis sheds light on a larger debate between Kristina Spohr and Celeste Wallander about Western attitudes toward the Baltic question at the Cold War endgame. The article is based on newly available archival materials in the United States and France as well as on documents from the archives of the Gorbachev Foundation in Moscow and in the Latvian State Archives.

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