Obama backs U.S. bill condemning Soviets

  • 2008-09-18
  • By Monika Hanley

ILLEGAL OCCUPATION: Obama was a supporter of the bill, which says the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states was illegal. The Senate unanimously supported the motion in a Sept. 16 vote.

RIGA - The U.S. Senate, at its Sep. 16 meeting, unanimously voted to confirm a resolution, stating that Russia must publicly recognize that the 51-year Soviet occupation in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia was illegal. U.S. presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has signed on to co-sponsor a Senate resolution that honors Latvia and calls for public Russian acknowledgement of the 51-year Soviet occupation of the Baltic states.  Senate Resolution 87 calls on the president and the secretary of state to urge the government of the Russian Federation to admit that the Soviet occupation of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was in fact illegal. After a hearty campaign and lobbying by Latvians in Chicago, Obama added his name to the resolution on Sep. 8.

After the efforts of the leaders of Janis Vilcins and Artis Inka, leaders of the Chicago-area Latvian community, Obama representatives met with Valdis Pavlovskis, public affairs director for the American Latvian Association.
The resolution was introduced by Democratic senator Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican senator Gordon Smith of Oregon. Despite having been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, the resolution had seen no action since Jun. 9, according to Latvians Online.

This resolution is similar to that of Lithuanian-American Republican John Shimkus, of July 31. However, this new resolution, currently co-sponsored by four senators, is the only one that both congratulates Latvia on the eve of the 90th anniversary of its independence and calls for the U.S. president to push Russia to admit the illegality of the Soviet occupation.

The text of the resolution is straightforward. The resolution states that the "United States never recognized the illegal and forcible occupation, and successive United States presidents maintained continuous diplomatic relations with these countries throughout the Soviet occupation, never accepting them to be 'Soviet Republics.'"

The resolution also states that during the 50 years of occupation, the U.S. congress "strongly, consistently, and on a bipartisan basis supported a United States policy of legal non-recognition."
Until the Baltic countries regained their independence, Congress had adopted a yearly Baltic Freedom Day resolution reproving the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and appealing for the freedom of the Baltic countries.
Latvia will celebrate its 90th year of independence on November 18. All three Baltic countries will be celebrating 90 years of independence in 2008.