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Time to let us in

  • 2001-07-26
"The people of the Baltic countries broke away from the oppressive regime of the Soviets and mounted successful efforts to build democracies. Other nations of the former (de facto) Soviet Union should look to the Baltic states as an example in leadership."

It was Captive Nations Week last week in the United States. This inspired the U.S. Senate to pass "Concurrent Resolution 34" on July 19, from which the above quote is taken, to mark the approach of the 10th anniversary of freedom from Soviet rule for the Baltic countries.

The Senate reminded whoever was listening about the history of the Baltic states' illegal incorporation into the Soviet Union; how Hitler and Stalin used the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact of 1939 to divide up the countries that lay between them and how this set the stage for the invasion of the Baltic region by Soviet tanks in June 1940.

So began a bloody decade of war, mass murder, deportation and a protracted period of partisan warfare. Borrowing the words of the Joint Baltic American National Committee, "Three independent, prosperous and civilized countries vanished from the map of Europe."

The world needs reminding. Most ordinary people in the former Soviet Union believe, as they were taught in their history books, that Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia invited the Soviet Union to "liberate" them from the threat of right-wing extremism.

Meanwhile, many politicians and ordinary people in the West continue to believe that Russia's demands to keep the Baltics in their sphere of influence outweigh the right of three countries to choose their own security partners.

And recent events like U.S. President George W Bush's landmark Warsaw speech ("From now on, what you build, you keep"), the choice of Vilnius as the location of the latest NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and other meetings of top-level military personnel, candidate country foreign ministers and so on, have all given the people of the Baltic countries a feeling of expectation.

NATO, many argue, should have been dissolved or undergone at least a name change 10 years ago in order to dispel the atmosphere of mistrust between Russia, the nations of Central and Eastern Europe and the West. It didn't. So the only option open to the Baltic states is to keep banging on the doors of both NATO and the EU. They have done a good job during these 10 years of formidable change. It is up to the procrastinating officials in charge of NATO and the EU to let these countries in.