Today we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Sumner Welles Declaration, which condemned the forced occupation and annexation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union, and served as the foundation of the United States’ five-decade long non-recognition policy of Soviet occupation of the Baltic States.
Enn Eesmaa, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, emphasised that the declaration, issued by acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles on July 23, 1940, was an exceptional sign of our shared commitment to freedom, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. “From 1940 until the full restoration of Baltic countries’ independence half a century later, the flags of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania continued to fly in Washington, just as our peoples continued to believe in a future in which liberty would be returned and sovereignty – restored,” Eesmaa said.
In Eesmaa’s words, the Welles Declaration set out an international framework for the existence of the Baltic States de jure throughout the entire period of Soviet occupation and for the restoration of statehood of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that followed later.
Eesmaa affirmed that, today, too, the Declaration is a stark, inspiring and an important reminder of the need to uphold the principles of international law and to oppose, as was stated in the declaration, “predatory activities, whether they are carried out by the use of force or by the threat of force”. “As we move deeper into the 21st century, our shared commitment to democratic values, secure borders, and the territorial integrity of sovereign states remains as unwavering as ever,” Eesmaa said.
Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee recalled that the United States’ Crimea Declaration on July 25, 2018, reaffirmed the same principles as in the Welles Declaration, emphasising its policy of refusal to recognise illegal annexation of territory seized by force, and this stance is welcomed and fully supported by the Baltic States.
“On this important anniversary, we celebrate independence, pay tribute to those who suffered and sacrificed to ensure it. We recognise the importance of the United States’ significant contributions both historically and on this day, thus playing an irreplaceable part in ensuring security in the Baltics and Europe. Estonia is proud to be among those NATO member states that commit at least 2% of their GDP for defense, so that, along with our partners, we can fulfill the shared vision of a Europe peaceful, united and free,” Enn Eesmaa said.
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