SUMNER WELLES AND BALTIC STATES
Brussels, July 13, 2005
Joint Declaration on the 65th anniversary of the proclamation of the United States policy of non-recognition regarding the forcible seizure of the Baltic States by the Soviet Union
On June 22, 2005, the President of the European Parliament made a statement on behalf of the largest democratic representative body in the world, conveying his sympathy to the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian nations on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the illegal occupation of the three independent Baltic states by the Soviet Union and also expressing his satisfaction that these nations have been able to return to the family of united Europe as free and democratic member states.
In defiance of half a century of totalitarian terror, genocide and suppression of all basic human rights Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians succeeded in retaining their identity, language and hopes to regain independent statehood. Their determined fight was significantly helped by a clear and principled position taken by the United States Government almost immediately after the initial military takeover of the Baltic states by the Red Army and the toppling of their legitimate governments through foreign intervention.
On July 23, 1940, Sumner Welles, acting US Secretary of State, stated that the “devious processes whereunder the political independence and territorial integrity of the three small Baltic republics – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – were to be deliberately annihilated by one of their more powerful neighbours, have been rapidly drawn to their conclusion.” He declared that “the people of the United States are opposed to predatory activities no matter whether they are carried out by the use of force or by the threat of force.”
Referring to the Stimson doctrine, the acting Secretary of State indicated that non-recognition of illegal seizure of foreign territories would be applied to the Soviet Union as it had been applied to Japan, Germany and Italy. As a result, the diplomatic representations of the Baltic republics were allowed to continue their activities in the United States; steps were taken to protect the assets of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the United States. America also refused to turn over Baltic merchant vessels in United States ports to the Soviet Union.
Responding on August 9, 1940 to a Soviet note, the US State Department concluded that it had become “apparent that the governments and people of those countries /i.e. the Baltic states/ were being deprived of freedom of action by foreign troops which had entered their territories by force or threat of force”.
As a result of the declaration by acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles on July 23, 1940 and the ensuing steps taken by consecutive American administrations, the firm resolve of the United States to adhere to the policies of self-determination of peoples and non-recognition of forcible seizure of territory – especially with regard to Eastern Europe – was confirmed.
The non-recognition policy of the largest democracy in the world, regarding the illegal annexation of the Baltic states lasted for half a century, despite immense pressures of pragmatic Realpolitik. The continued recognition by the United States of the diplomatic representatives of the Baltic states until the victorious end in August 1991 encouraged many other Western democracies not to yield to Soviet pressure and to continue to regard the Baltic states as illegally occupied.
The United States policy of non-recognition of the illegal Soviet annexation in 1940 is deeply appreciated by the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian nations. Most of us who have been living under conditions of Soviet occupation can testify that the United States´ clear position made Kremlin rulers often hesitant, especially after the death of Stalin, fully to implement the policy of Russification and suppression of national cultures and languages in the Baltic states.
The Communist administration would never admit it officially, yet we could feel the difference - the occupied Baltic nations were treated on several occasions in a more flexible and cautious way because of the special attention paid to them by the Western democracies. This was immensely important in helping us to gain time and persist until the collapse of the Soviet empire. In 1991, the continuing policy of non-recognition contributed to restoring independence of the Baltic states on the basis of their legal continuity.
Representing for the first time newly free Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the European Parliament, which supported the restoration of our independence already in 1983, we would like to use this anniversary to strengthen the solidarity and intensify mutual cooperation of democratic nations on both sides of the Atlantic. The principles proclaimed by the acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles on July 23, 1940, have by no means lost their practical significance today.
Unfortunately even today Russia, the legal successor to the Soviet Union, still officially claims that the occupation and subsequent annexation of the three Baltic States in 1940 was the expression of the free will of these nations. Clearly, the united stand of free democratic nations based on the principles of non-recognition of forcible seizure of any territory will be the best guarantee for the Baltic nations that the "methods of gunmen" - to quote The New York Times editorial from July 24, 1940 - will never again be used to deprive small countries of their sovereignty.
Members of the European Parliament:
Mr. Georgs Andrejevs (Latvia, ALDE)
Mrs. Laima Liucija Andrikiene (Lithuania, EPP-ED)
Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia, EPP-ED)
Mr. Toomas-Hendrik Ilves (Estonia, PSE)
Mr. Eugenijus Gentvilas (Lithuania, ALDE)
Mr. Tunne Kelam (Estonia, EPP-ED)
Mr. Guntars Krasts (Latvia, UEN)
Mr. Girts Valdis Kristovskis (Latvia, UEN)
Mr. Aldis Kuskis (Latvia, EPP-ED)
Mr. Vytautas Landsbergis (Lithuania, EPP-ED)
Mrs. Marianne Mikko (Estonia, PSE)
Mrs. Siiri Oviir (Estonia, ALDE)
Mr. Rihards Piks (Latvia, EPP-ED)
Mr. Aloyzas Sakalas (Lithuania, PSE)
Mr. Toomas Savi (Estonia, ALDE)
Mr. Andres Tarand (Estonia, PSE)
Mrs. Inese Vaidere (Latvia, UEN)
Mr. Roberts Zile (Latvia, UEN)
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