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Abstract: For some five decades, the United States considered the Baltic Republic of Lithuania to be a "captive nation," a country that had been annexed against its will into the Soviet Union. The US had never formally accepted the annexation, although its protest, by early 1990, had long been pro forma. But when, in the wake of the Soviet reforms initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev, Lithuania moves toward declaring independence, the United States' position in response is by no means clear. In March of 1990, with Gorbachev on his way to Washington for a meeting with President George Bush, the president had to consider whether to recognize Lithuania's secession. In considering his options, the president had to consider both the moral claim of Lithuania for recognition and the historic US position on the matter, as well as the US relationship to the Gorbachev regime, whose reforms the president had strongly supported and whose efforts could be undermined by a Lithuania embarrassment. The case allows for an ethics-based discussion weighing what can sometimes appear to be mutually exclusive courses of action, the moral and the pragmatic.