And Finally on “The Greatest Geopolitical Catastrophe of the Century”
The editors of the Jacksonville [NC] Daily News (4/27/05), write: “And as for the ‘”greatest geopolitical catastrophe’” of the 20th century, it wasn’t even the greatest catastrophe to befall Russia. [It was] The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the ensuing Red Terror, purges and mass starvation that killed tens of millions of Russians under Stalin; the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 that led to World War II. And there are plenty who feel the demise of the Soviet Union was not a catastrophe but a cause for celebration. And who might they be? Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, the former east Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria. We could go on.
Balts Ask President Bush to Urge President Putin to Renounce the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
In March, the Baltic American Freedom League submitted a letter to President George Bush asking the administration to urge the Russian government to acknowledge that the occupation and annexation of Latvia and Lithuania was illegal, and to raise this issue at the Moscow commemoration May 9.
The U.S. and Latvia Sign Agreement on Nonproliferation and Threat Reduction Cooperation
As part of Latvia’s cooperation and support of U.S. efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear materials, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Latvian Ministry of Environment signed an agreement that will allow collaboration in nonproliferation and threat reductions areas, reports DOE (4/25/05). The agreement will provide for repatriation to Russia of Soviet/Russian-origin nuclear fuel containing highly enriched uranium from Latvia’s shutdown research reactors at Salspils. “We applaud the Latvian government for its ongoing work to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation and we look forward to our new partnership,” said DOE Secretary, Samuel Bodman.
Russia Finally Agrees to Sign Border Treaties with Estonia and Latvia
After years of stalling, the Russian government is finally prepared on May 10 to sign border treaties with Estonia and Latvia stated Russian presidential aide Sergei Yaztrzhembsky, reports ITAR-TASS (4/22/05). All three countries regard the signing an important event as it not only marks the border between the Baltic countries and Russia, but also Russia’s border with EU. “It will be a landmark stride in Russo-Baltic relations and contacts with the European Union—it will mean a part of Russia-EU state frontier has achieved formalization,” said Mr. Yaztrzhembsky.
Estonia Ranks Fourth in the World of Economic Freedom
The 2005 Index of Economic Freedom published by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal ranks 155 countries. Each country is scored on 10 indicators of economic freedom from fiscal burdens and government regulations to monetary and trade policies. The report ranks Estonia as the world’s freest economy after Hong Kong, followed by Singapore and Luxembourg. Estonia is often considered together with Latvia and Lithuania. Known as the “Baltic Tigers,” all three have flourished since independence, and their improved standing has been marked in distinct contrast to those of former Soviet republics and Russia. The Baltic countries have been recognized for their speed and agility in adapting to the realities of capitalism. The gross domestic growth in all three nations has moved briskly along with increases of 6 percent a year, as compared with under 2 percent for the rest of European Union nations.
Estonia Ranks Top on Human Rights, Russia Hits the Bottom—“Not Free”
The 2005 Freedom House global survey on human rights in 192 countries ranks Estonia among the top countries that provide maximum political rights and civil liberties to its citizens, while Russia was downgraded from “Partly Free” to “Not Free.” Each country is assigned a rating for political rights and for civil liberties based on a scale of 1 to 7, with one representing the highest degree of freedom. The survey gave Estonia rating of 1.0, Latvia received 1.5, Lithuania 2.0 and Russia received 5.5. Russia’s “Not Free” category is the culmination of a growing trend under President Putin to concentrate political authority, harass and intimidate the media and politicize the law-enforcement system. “These moves mark a dangerous and disturbing drift toward authoritarianism in Russia,” said FH Executive Director, Jennifer Windsor.
Latvian President, Vaira Vike-Freiberga Chosen as Advisor to U.N.
The President of Latvia, Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, was named as the fifth member of U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan’s team of global political leaders helping to promote his reform agenda, reports Europaworld (4/15/05). The reforms are expected to be the most comprehensive and far-reaching in the UN’s 60 year history. Other members of the Board include Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Aer, former Foreign Minister of Indonesia Ali Alatas and two former presidents: Joaquin Chissano of Mozambique and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico. At her press conference, President Vike-Freiberga said, “Together we should arrive at a solution that would help this global organization act out and perform its obligations with more success, greater efficiency and less obstruction.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Thanks Lithuania for Efforts in Ukraine and Afghanistan
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thanked Lithuania on April 20 for helping to strengthen democratic processes in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and also in Afghanistan, where the Provincial Reconstruction Team will be headed by Lithuania. As head of the PRT, Lithuania “will be a very important contributor to the continued process of stabilization and democratization in Afghanistan,” Rice said. She also thanked President Adamkus for his role in helping resolve the election crisis in Ukraine last year by undertaking a mediation mission to Kiev with Polish President Aleksander Kwansniewski and EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. She noted that the United States and Lithuania “share common values.”
European Parliament to Debate the Consequences of World War II
The Latvian newspaper “Diena” reports (4/13/05) that the European Parliament (EP) has scheduled a debate on the consequences of WWII in May to parallel the celebrations in Moscow. A number of member states opposed the debate; they were concerned that the debate would upset Russia and was not worth the trouble that it will cause. Heinrihs Lakss, a Finnish delegate, however, argued that EP should send a “strong signal” to Russia that it must realize and admit that a number of European Union states were occupied illegally by the Soviet Union so that they can go forward and establish equal and normal relations with Russia.
Finns, Russians Clash Over World War II Views
Finnish and Russian historians and politicians clashed over the view that both the Soviet Union and Germany share blame for the start and the consequences of the war at a seminar on WWII at the University of Helsinki, reports the Helsingin Samonat (4/22/05). Alexei Sazonov, Deputy Director of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, denied Soviet complicity in starting WWII and objected to placing the Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany on a par with one another. The noted Finnish historian Osmo Jussila said that the Russians’ views on wartime events have gone back to those which prevailed in the Stalin era…and that Russia should implement a thorough accounting of the war, in the same way that Germany did after the war ended. As long as this does not happen, views will not change. Interpretations of history are linked with the political atmosphere.” Sazonov rejected the idea. “It is not right to judge the liberators and the liberated by the same criteria,” he said.
Poland’s President Wants President Putin to Tell the Truth
The Baltic Times reports (4/20/05) that Poland’s President Aleksander Kasniewski, responding to President Vladimir Putin’s position that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact is not subject to judicial assessment, stated on Polish television: “On May 9, words should be heard…words of condemnation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. We expect the Russians to speak about the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and say that World War II did not bring freedom to all. It is very important what Mr. Putin says. We are not asking him to reassess history. We expect him to tell the truth.” The Nazi-Soviet agreement handed not only the Baltic countries over to Russia, but also carved up Poland between the two dictators. President Kwasniewski is going to Moscow to commemorate the downfall of Nazi Germany even though he has repeatedly called on Russia to give an “honest assessment” of Soviet actions in Poland.
H. Con. Res. 128 Asks Russians to Accept Responsibility for Soviet Occupation of Baltic Countries
House Con. Res. 128 introduced by Representative John Shimkus (R-IL), Cochairman of the House Baltic Caucus, calls on the Government of the Russian Federation to clearly and unambiguously state that the occupation and annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from 1940 to 1991 by the U.S.S.R. was illegal. “The truth is a powerful weapon for healing, forgiving and reconciliation,” the resolution states, “but its absence breeds distrust, fear and hostility.”
Russian officials and politicians reject the international view that the Soviet Union invaded the Baltic countries in 1940 under the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 that carved up Eastern Europe and enabled Hitler to start WWII. Moscow also denies that the illegal annexation of the three countries into the Soviet Union at the end of the war amounts to an occupation. As Vladimir Kovalev, political columnist for The St. Petersburg Times [Russia] writes in the March 11, 2005 issue “The Russian political elite is behaving like an obstinate donkey, doing everything it can to stop moving toward reconciliation with the Baltic States…what they [Balts] are asking the Kremlin to do is exactly what Germany did decades ago in relation to Adolf Hitler.”
A similar resolution will be introduced in the Senate by the Cochairmen of the Baltic Caucus, Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Richard Durbin (D-IL).