On the 80th anniversary of the Welles Declaration, the foreign ministers of the United States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania issued a joint statement reaffirming their opposition to Russia's attempts to rewrite history.
In a joint statement Estonian foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu, Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics, Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius and the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Russia's actions.
"We stand firmly against any attempts by Russia to rewrite history in order to justify the 1940 occupation and annexation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union. The Welles Declaration shows that already in 1940 the free world recognized the Soviet action for what it was – an illegal act of forceful annexation," the statement said.
The statement also emphasized the countries' continuing cooperation and said they are working together to safeguard peace and stability through NATO.
On July 23, 1940, Acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles issued a statement which said the United States of America condemned the 1940 Soviet occupation of the Baltic states and refused to recognize the new Soviet governments of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania
The declaration has since become known as the Welles declaration.
Reinsalu (Isamaa) said the anniversary statement is an example of the long-term close relations between Estonia and the United States and sends a strong message at a time when Russia continues to make systematic attempts to distort history.
"The United States pursued the most consistent policy of non-recognition of the occupation and annexation of Estonia," said Reinsalu.
"Thanks to the United States and other Western countries not recognising the occupation, diplomatic representations of the Republic of Estonia were able to continue operating in the free world. On this important anniversary, we also acknowledge the Estonian diplomats who stood then, and stand now, in support of the statehood and sovereignty of the Republic of Estonia."
"#WellesDeclaration's historic importance remains highly relevant in the 21st century when some countries challenge the key principles and norms of a rules-based international order"— Urmas Reinsalu (@UrmasReinsalu) July 23, 2020
Joint statement w/ @SecPompeo ???????? @edgarsrinkevics ????????@LinkeviciusL ???????? on its 80th anniversary ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/dBOfPeZgcW
ERR News has published the full text below:
"Today we celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the Welles Declaration, which laid the foundation for the United States of America's non-recognition policy, by which it never formally accepted the occupation and annexation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania by the Soviet Union.
"The Welles Declaration established an international framework for the survival of the three Baltic states de jure throughout the entire period of Soviet occupation and for the eventual restoration of statehood of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The people of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania value and cherish the Declaration for the hope that it gave during the difficult times of totalitarian rule.
"We stand firmly against any attempts by Russia to rewrite history in order to justify the 1940 occupation and annexation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union. The Welles Declaration shows that already in 1940 the free world recognized the Soviet action for what it was – an illegal act of forceful annexation. Regrettably, even the end of WWII a few years later did not bring liberation to the Baltic states and other nations in Eastern and Central Europe; instead, it brought repression and persecution.
"The legacy of the Welles Declaration and the United States' firm support of the Baltic states' sovereignty and territorial integrity led to a prospering relationship between our nations after the fall of the Soviet Union. Through our membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization we have become strong Allies, working together to safeguard peace and stability.
"The commitment of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to the trans-Atlantic Alliance remains unquestionable. The Baltic states value the United States' contribution to European defense, notably through maintaining regular deployments of forces to the Baltic States – crucial to deter any potential adversary.
"The Welles Declaration's historic importance remains highly relevant in the 21st century, when some countries challenge the key principles and norms of a rules-based international order – notably sovereignty and territorial integrity. The principles of the Welles Declaration were rightly invoked again on July 25, 2018, when the United States confirmed its refusal to accept the attempted annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation.
"We – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the United States – stand together in support of a rules-based international order that ensures security and prosperity for every nation."
You can learn more about the history of Estonia by watching the video below or on the Ministry of Foreign Affair's website.
Georgia and Ukraine
Pompeo also said in statement and video message that the U.S. supports Georgia and Ukraine and condemned Russia's actions against their territorial integrity.
"The Welles Declaration is no mere historical artifact. Just as the United States never recognized the Baltic States' forced incorporation into the Soviet Union, so it will never accept Russia's attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia, through its purported annexation of Crimea, its support for destabilizing proxies in eastern Ukraine, or its occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia."
The Welles Declaration is no mere historical artifact. Just as the U.S. never recognized the Baltic States' forced incorporation into the USSR, so it will never accept Russia's attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia https://t.co/ezTOSk73Cg pic.twitter.com/8inZdLlTPw— U.S. Embassy Tbilisi (@usingeo) July 23, 2020
Editor: Helen Wright