Thursday marks a century of diplomatic relations between the United States and Estonia. President Alar Karis and Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) were among those to mark the centennial by highlighting the two countries' special bond through history.
On July 28, 1922, under the direction of U.S. Secretary of State Charles Hughes, U.S. Consul in Tallinn Charles H. Albrecht extended full recognition of the Republic of Estonia, marking the start of official diplomatic relations between the two countries.
In his statement, Karis underscored the special nature of the two countries' transatlantic relations and the importance of defense cooperation between them — both in the early years of Estonia's independence and now that Russia's war against Ukraine has upended peace and security in Europe, according to a press release.
Estonia sets great store by its century of friendship with the U.S., Karis said.
"Our relations are stronger than ever," he confirmed. "We are both unwavering in our commitment to the defense of peace, security and democratic values, and we stand shoulder to shoulder as allies in the world's strongest security alliance — NATO. Robust transatlantic relations form the basis of Estonian and European security, and America is Europe's most important ally."
The head of state added that Estonia greatly appreciates U.S. military support, which is vital to European security as a whole. "This is particularly the case now, with Russia waging a full-scale war at the very heart of Europe," he stressed. "Alongside the U.S., we are supporting — and will continue to support — Ukraine in the defense of its people and sovereignty."
Karis, Latvian President Egils Levits and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda sent U.S. President Joe Biden a joint letter marking the centennial of diplomatic relations between the three Baltic states and the U.S. In it, they stressed the importance to their three respective countries of transatlantic relations and cooperation with the U.S. — both 100 years ago and today, when all three are facing global challenges.
Among other points, the three heads of state underscored the importance of the role played by the U.S. in championing the rule of law internationally and in providing assistance to Ukraine, as well as emphasized the need to continue tirelessly countering Russia's barbaric acts and to help Ukraine win the war.
They also highlighted the role played by the U.S. in making and implementing decisions reached at the NATO summit in Madrid regarding reinforcing the alliance's collective defense, and expressed their desire for democratic countries' ability to mount effective opposition to be boosted further.
Kallas: Jaakson kept Estonia de jure alive in New York
"We will never forget that when we were behind the Iron Curtain, the United States never recognized Estonia's occupation by the Soviet Union," Kallas said in a video message shared on Twitter. "Estonia's Consul General in New York Ernst Jaakson left for the U.S. in 1929. The next time he visited Estonia was in 1992, after Estonia had restored its independence. He represented Estonia de jure all this time thanks to the non-recognition policy of the United States. This way, the Republic of Estonia was kept alive even during the darkest times."
100 years ago, Estonia and the United States established diplomatic relations.— Kaja Kallas (@kajakallas) July 28, 2022
Our transatlantic bond helped keep the Republic of Estonia alive during Soviet occupation. Now, as allies working together to support #Ukraine, this bond is more important than ever. #US100EE pic.twitter.com/TOjtoUIH9O
Reinsalu meets with new U.S. charge d'affaires
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) met with the newly appointed U.S. Charge d'Affaires Gabrielle Cowan on Thursday as well.
"The U.S. has been a strong supporter of Estonian statehood and sovereignty all these years," Reinsalu said according to a press release, adding that Estonia and the U.S. are now working hand in hand to provide full support to Ukraine in the latter's fight to preserve their own sovereignty and statehood.
"We are friends, allies in NATO and partners," Reinsalu told Cowan. "I look forward to what the next 100 years will bring."
Estonia's goal is to strengthen bilateral relations with the U.S. as well as to find more areas for cooperation, the minister said, noting that in addition to security and defense, the two countries have also intensified cooperation on cyber issues, development cooperation, the promotion of democracy and in economics as well.
"Today, as we celebrate the centennial of our diplomatic relations, the partnership between the U.S. and Estonia is stronger than ever," Cowan said. "I had the pleasure of meeting with [Minister of Foreign Affairs] Reinsalu today to highlight this significant anniversary and discuss our most important shared priorities — support for Ukraine, efforts to hold Russia accountable and cooperation in defending our shared democratic values."
Estonian Ambassador to the U.S. Kristjan Prikk likewise tweeted about the anniversary as well.
It's an anniversary of years of diplomatic relations between and today. A relationship like few others as it withstood even the darkest hours of WWII and Cold War, our mutual commitment to each other has never been stronger.#WeAreAllies #StartOfNext100 pic.twitter.com/kUrcdTuCYo— Kristjan Prikk (@kprikk) July 28, 2022
100 highlights of the past century
This April, the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn launched USandEstonia.ee, a website featuring 100 moments from the first 100 years of the two countries' relations.
"Grouped into diplomatic milestones, security engagements, cultural events, and economic connections, these moments demonstrate the enduring friendship the United States and Estonia have shared over the past century," the introduction states.
Among the moments featured are milestones including the first U.S. envoy to Estonia presenting their credentials in 1922 and the embassy's move to its current home at Kentmanni in 1930, the release in 1940 of what became known as the Welles Declaration, in which the U.S. formally refused to recognize the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and several presidential visits, but also the establishment of the Estonian Children's Summer Camp on Long Island in 1955, ESTO '76 in Baltimore, the establishment of the Maryland National Guard's state partnership with Estonia in 1993 and Estonia welcoming its first rotation of U.S. troops in 2014.
As part of its "100 Days to 100 Years" campaign kicked off this spring, the U.S. Embassy also cooperated with partners throughout Estonia to mark the jubilee, with events including the publishing of a book on U.S.-Estonian relations by the University of Tartu, a conference co-hosted by Estonia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs held last month as well as a slew of musical performances, exhibitions and other cultural activities across the country.
In 1922, opened its representation in DC. In 1940, the affirmed it would not recognize the USSR's illegal occupation of . Since 1991, our relationship has grown stronger each year. After 100 years of partnership, we continue to face today's challenges together. #US100EE pic.twitter.com/2dXIIxKKv3— USEmbassyTallinn (@USEmbTallinn) July 28, 2022
New documentary airing Thursday night
This Thursday night at 11 p.m., ETV is also airing a new documentary, "Estonia and the American Century: An Unbroken Relationship."
Written by Neeme Raud, directed by Marek Miil and produced by Birgit Rae, the documentary explores why the U.S.' recognition was so important to the nascent Republic of Estonia in the 1920s and how the U.S. impacted the restoration of Estonian independence nearly 70 years later.
Filmed on both sides of the Atlantic, "Estonia and the American Century" will also unveil never before heard stories about the building and maintaining of Estonia's international relations.
Editor: Aili Vahtla