When a diplomat is invited to speak to the Committee on Foreign Relations in Charlottesville, he must pay homage to Thomas Jefferson; and the Lithuanian ambassador duly noted that Jefferson inspired the occupied nations of the former Soviet Union in their struggle to break free.
Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas, however, also used the occasion last week to explain that countries that suffered under communist domination understand better than many other European nations the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. “There is no secret that you find a better appreciation of the U.S. policies and actions against threats of terrorism and the Iraqi regime in the Central and Eastern part of Europe than in some other countries,” he said.
“From our experience, we know the price democracies have to pay for inaction. That’s why the presidents of the three Baltic nations [Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania] assured President Bush they would stand shoulder to shoulder with America in the fight against terrorism and meeting the new challenges of the 21st century.”
Mr. Usackas noted that Jefferson saw the United States “as a great island of freedom in the midst of a world of tyranny.””He thanked the Almighty Being for the fact that America was separated by a wide ocean from the nations of Europe, and he hoped to keep it that way,” he added.”However, the events of September 11, 2001, changed this conventional wisdom, and in today’s interdependent world the United States needs Europe and Europe needs the United States,” he said.
Mr. Usackas said Jefferson’s philosophy, most famously set forth in the Declaration of Independence, inspired many East Europeans in their struggle for liberty. He noted the unsuccessful uprisings against communism in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968, as well as the final collapse of communism beginning in 1989.
“Jefferson’s thoughts and ideas on the rights and freedoms of the people and on democratic governments have served as an inspiration and guidance for may nations striving for freedom and democracy across the globe,” he said.