VILNIUS - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian foreign ministers on Thursday condemned Russia's attempts to rewrite history to justify the Soviet occupation and annexation of the Baltic states.
"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," they said in a joint statement marking the 80th anniversary of a US declaration that condemned the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries.
On July 23, 1940, Acting US Secretary of State Sumner Welles issued an official statement refusing to recognize the annexation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the Soviet Union. The document marked the beginning of the US policy of non-recognition of the occupation of the Baltic nations.
"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 joint statement reads.
The four ministers also underlined the importance of cooperation between the US and the Baltic states and the presence of NATO and American forces in the region.
"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," they said in the statement.