RIGA - The U.S. Senate passed a resolution on May 19 calling for the Russian Federation to "issue an unambiguous statement" that would acknowledge and condemn the Soviet occupation. The move put even more weight on the Kremlin, which has come under international pressure to express regret for subjecting the Baltics and Eastern Europe to decades of repression.
The resolution calls Russia the successor state to the Soviet Union and commends recent moves by the Kremlin to recognize Russia's involvement in the Katyn massacre in Poland. Yet it also states that the occupation "brought countless suffering to the Baltic people through terror, killings, and deportations to Siberian concentration camps."
"Whereas the truth is a powerful weapon for healing, forgiveness and reconciliation, its absence breeds distrust, fear and hostility," the resolution reads. The document also says that such a move would "lead to improved relations between the people of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia, would form the basis for improved relations between the governments of the countries and would strengthen stability in the region."
The text deviates little from an earlier Congressional resolution that asked Russia to admit that it occupied the Baltic states and repudiate the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.
Gordon Smith, a republican from Oregon, introduced the motion, which was supported by Richard Durbin of Illinois and Dianne Feinstein of California, both Democrats. All three are members of the Senate's Baltic Freedom Caucus.
Durbin also submitted another resolution on the same day, supporting the creation of a memorial in Washington D.C. for the victims of communism. Work on the memorial could begin as early as this fall, he said, with completion set for sometime next year.
In the past such attempts by American politicians have had negligible affect on official Russian opinion. Despite U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to Riga, where he condemned the Soviet occupation and apologized for America's role in the Yalta conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin has steadfastly refused to admit an occupation occurred.
The Kremlin has officially said that Soviet forces entered the Baltic states by invitation.
"I see no point in making any special comment on this resolution: the position of Russia on this question is well known and remains invariable. It has been clearly outlined in the appropriate statement of President Vladimir Putin, where it is explained in detail how Russia perceives such attempts to rewrite history," Alexander Yakovenko, a spokesman for Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told journalists this week.
The Congressional resolution, asking for much the same as its Senate counterpart, was submitted in mid-April, and will likely be voted on sometime this summer.
Other than the two U.S. examples, Latvia and the European Parliament have also passed resolutions condemning Soviet hegemony in East Central Europe. But so far, no amount of decrees passed in foreign parliaments have affected Russia's position regarding the Soviet period in the Baltic states.
Since the May 9 ceremonies in Moscow and two recent declarations, relations between Russia and Latvia have rapidly deteriorated. One declaration was attached to the proposed border agreement, and the second was a recent parliamentary resolution that called for reparations for the Soviet occupation. Although denied later by the government, the declarations have fueled a war of words between the two countries.