On July 22, 2005, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted a historic and strongly worded resolution (HCR 128) authored by Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL), Cochairman of the House Baltic Caucus, that would bring closure to one of the most hideous crimes of World War II: the forceful and illegal occupation and annexation of three Baltic countries–Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania–by the Soviet Union.
HCR 128 notes that the Molotov-Ribbentrop of 1939 provided the Soviet Union with an opportunity to invade, occupy and annex the Baltic countries; that the occupation was an act of aggression carried out against the will of sovereign nations; and urges the Russian government to issue “a clear and unambiguous statement of admission and condemnation of the illegal occupation and annexation of the Baltic countries.” The resolution concludes that such an action by Russia, as the successor state to the Soviet Union, will “significantly increase” good will among the affected countries and enhance regional stability. The U.S. Senate adopted a similar resolution, SCR 35, in May.
The resolution implicitly and clearly refutes the Russian government’s official fairy- tale that the Baltic countries voluntarily of their own free will gave up their sovereignty and freedom to join the Soviet Union and that this was done accordance with international law and bilateral treaties. On the same day the House passed HCR 128, the Deputy Chairpersons of the Russian Parliament, Natalia Narochnickaya, told the Baltic media that she and her political party, Rodina (Motherland), are certain that the three Baltic countries had not been occupied and that the “Baltic states had joined the Soviet Union in a legitimate manner.” The resolution is available on the congressional website http://thomas.loc.gov, along with the floor statement of Congressman Shimkus.
In introducing the resolution, Representative John Shimkus said, “Russia has been wavering in non-recognition of mass deportations, tortures and murders committed during the Soviet regime. I feel along with the 29 cosponsors of the resolution that Russia needs to acknowledge the mistakes of the past so that it can move forward and become a truthful state and in turn a stronger democracy. It is important that United States join with our allies and the Baltics and stand for democracy and rights of the individuals to be protected everywhere. Democracy and freedom cannot exist without truth and transparency. I hope Russia would take a step towards this as a nation by acknowledging the past.”
Mr. Shimkus also thanked Chairman of the International Relations Committee Henry Hyde, Ranking Member Tom Lantos, Subcommittee Chairman Elton Gallegly and Ranking Member Robert Wexler for allowing the resolution “to move in an expeditionary manner.”
The Copresidents of the Baltic American Freedom League (BAFL), Vija Turjanis and Alnis Briedis in a joint statement said, : “We are honored that the House of Representatives understands how important it is for the Russian Federation to acknowledge the illegality of the Soviet occupation and annexation of the Baltic countries. This acknowledgment would show that Russia is taking the first step to a successful transition from a Soviet police state to an emerging democratic society.” They further noted that BAFL worked jointly with other Baltic organizations including the Joint Baltic American National Community, the Midwest Baltic Coalition and expressed gratitude and thanks to all those who worked so hard over to get the resolutions passed.
So far the Russian press has ignored the resolution. On May 10, during the commemoration in Moscow of the end of World War II in Europe, President Vladimir Putin informed the media that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was a transaction betwen two government in which the Baltic countries served as small change. “That is unfortunate, but it is a reality of life. And the subject of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is closed,” said the President of Russia.
HCR 128 had 29 cosponsors, 19 were members of the House Baltic Caucus. Including the sponsosr, Mr. Shimkus, sixteen of the supporters were Republicans and 14 were Democrats. The cosponsors by states included: J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), Xavier Beccera (D-CA), Howard Berman (D-CA), Mary Bono (R-CA), Christopher Cox, (R-CA), David Dreier (R-CA), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Edward Royce (R-CA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA); Adam Schiff (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Clay Shaw (R-FL), Jack Kingston (R-GA), David Scott (D-GA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Mark Souder (R-IN). Stephen Lynch (D-MA), James McGovern (D-MA), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Mike Rogers (R-MI), Fred Upton (R-MI), Terry Lee (R-NE). Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Tim Holden (D-PA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Frank Wolf (R-VA).
BAFL urges Baltic Americans and their supporters to contact their congresspersons to thank them for adopting SCR 35 and HCR 128.
Fittingly, the resolution was adopted the day before the 65th anniversary of the declaration of the U.S. policy of non-recognition of the Baltic occupation by the Soviet Union. On July 23, 1940, the acting Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, declared that the “…the political independence and territorial integrity of the three Baltic republics–Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania–were to be deliberately annihilated by one of their more powerful neighbors…[and that] the people of the United States are opposed to predatory activities no matter whether they are carried on by the use of force or by the threat of force.” The systematic application and a strict adherence to the non-recognition doctrine was continued for half a century until the Baltic countries regained their freedom and independence in 1991.
In addition, July is also the anniversary for United States official recognition in 1922 of the Baltic countries as independent and sovereign nations. Of course, none of this mattered to the Soviet Union when it seized the Baltic countries or to Mr. Putin to parrot Stalin’s version of Baltic-Russian history.
The Board of Directors of BAFL would like to thank the Congress, the Baltic orgazations and individuals who made SCR 35 and HCR 128 a reality.