Reinsalu condemns Putin's vision of Baltic occupation

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu attending a video conference.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu attending a video conference. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) has condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin's interpretation of the status of Estonia and the other two Baltic States during World War II, coinciding with those countries' marking the 79th anniversary of Soviet deportations to Siberia.

Reinsalu posted on his social media page on Friday: "In an article in today's National Interest magazine, Russian President Putin continues to present a false historical narrative. He specifically focuses on the Baltics, saying that the Baltic States joined the Soviet Union on a contractual basis, with the consent of elected authorities, which was in line with international and state law at the time. These statements are completely false, and I fully condemn them."

Reinsalu added: "It is especially cynical to make such statements on the week of the 80th anniversary of the occupation of the Baltic states."

Reinsalu noted that in the article, Putin recalls the Nuremberg trials and its importance: "Justice for crimes against humanity is indeed necessary to prevent the recurrence of crime and to ensure justice. As a result of that, it is in the best interest of the future of Europe to give legal assessments to the crimes against humanity that the Soviet Union, representing a communist and inhumane ideology, committed."

Vladimir Putin wrote that the Baltic states were incorporated into the Soviet Union on a contractual basis, with the consent of democratically elected local authorities.

Putin penned: "In autumn 1939, the Soviet Union, pursuing its strategic military and defensive goals, started the process of the incorporation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Their accession to the Soviet Union was implemented on a contractual basis, with the consent of the elected authorities. This was in line with international and state law of that time."

The Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius also condemned Putin's words on Twitter and referenced the annexation of Crimea and Georgian territories as comparisons. Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics also criticized Putin on Twitter.

Yesterday, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania summoned the Russian ambassadors in their countries to discuss a recent legal initiative in the Russian State Duma which aims to revoke the resolution adopted by the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union on December 24, 1989. The resolution unanimously condemned the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocols which divided Europe into spheres of influence in 1939.

Mihkelson: This is an attempt to establish Russia's position in the world

Marko Mihkelson (Reform), Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, said Putin's approach is nothing new.

"The official line of Russia's foreign policy has been, over the years or even decades, to justify everything that happened at the beginning, during and after the Second World War, including the occupation and annexation of the Baltic states. Unfortunately, this whole article shows that it is first and foremost important for the President of Russia to defend the same Stalinist narrative that dates back to World War II. All the facts, clues, and nuances that he introduces more broadly in the article are in order to continue to wash away the Soviet Union's responsibility for unleashing World War II," Mihkelson commented.

"It's about defending the Stalinist narrative and how to justify its current aggressive, expansionist foreign policy," he added.

Mihkelson said one of Putin's messages in the article is that the West played a big part in starting World War II.

He said the article is an attempt to establish Russia's position as one of the decision-makers in the world, just as Russia decided to divide the world in Yalta, Potsdam and Tehran during World War II.

What was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact?

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was a non-aggression treaty signed between Germany and the Soviet Union on August 23, 1939; its secret protocol divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence.

The MRP was signed in Moscow by the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union, Vyacheslav Molotov.

The parties pledged to avoid aggression towards each other and any unions or agreement against the other party.

The secret protocol of the treaty split Eastern Europe into spheres of influence – Finland and the Baltic countries, plus Bessarabia which belonged to Romania – belonged in the Soviet sphere, while Poland was divided between both.

The treaty enabled Germany to attack Poland, which took place on September 1, 1939, and is now considered the start of World War II.

According to the secret protocol, the Soviet Union occupied Eastern Poland and forced the Baltic countries to accept the agreements of mutual assistance, and installed Soviet military bases there.

Finland refused to sign such an agreement.

The Soviet Union then attacked Finland, starting the Winter War, and was declared an aggressor by the League of Nations which expelled it.

In summer 1940, the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic countries and Bessarabia.

The Soviet Union denied the existence of the secret protocol until 1989, when the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union declared the MRP and its secret addenda null and void

On Wednesday, Reinsalu tweeted about the start of the Soviet Occupation of Estonia and said: "There can be no justification of the Pact. It brought tremendous suffering & loss of independence."

A video explaining the history of Estonia can be watched below.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Helen Wright

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