Baltic presidents: attempts to misrepresent the events of the Second World War undermine Europe

On 8 May, the world marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe and the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – Kersti Kaljulaid, Egils Levits and Gitanas Nausėda, respectively – have issued a joint statement to mark the occasion, saying that attempts to misrepresent the events of the war undermine Europe.

“We underline the importance of truth and justice. Misrepresentation of historical events that led to World War II and the division of Europe in the aftermath of the war constitute a regrettable effort to falsify history and question the very foundation of the contemporary international rules-based order,” the joint declaration says.

In the statement, the presidents honour the sacrifice of all victims and the Allied soldiers who defeated the Nazi regime on 8 May 1945, thus liberating many European countries from occupation and ending the horrors of the Holocaust.

The heads of state recall that the end of World War II did not mark freedom to the nations of Central and Eastern Europe; iInstead, one totalitarian regime was replaced by another when the Baltic states were brutally incorporated into the Soviet Union.

“The central and eastern part of the continent remained under the rule of communist regimes for almost half a century. The Soviet Union used overwhelming military force, indiscriminate repression, mass deportations and total ideological control to subjugate the Baltic nations,” the joint statement says, also thanking those more than 60 Western countries who never recognised the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia.

The presidents say that today, our nations are an integral part of the European Union and NATO; however, one cannot forget the tragic lessons of the past. “We firmly reject the concept of spheres of influence and insist on the equality of all nations. The imperative of international security requires continuous adherence to international law and agreed on norms, as well as unconditional respect for the territorial integrity of all sovereign states and their right to choose their own security arrangements and enter into unions and alliances,” the joint declaration states.

“NATO remains the foundation of the collective defence of our countries and the Transatlantic link is of vital importance for the future security and stability of Europe. We believe the Western democratic values and unity will ensure the future of the Baltic states and every European nation.”

The statement of the presidents of the Baltic states on 8 May:

We, the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, honour the sacrifice of all victims and the Allied soldiers who defeated the Nazi regime on 8 May 1945, thus liberating many European countries from occupation and ending the horrors of the Holocaust.

In the aftermath of the war, the United Nations were formed in recognition of the need for a rules-based international order and multilateral cooperation to protect peace, security and common values. Western Europe began to implement the vision of a Europe whole and free, based on peace, democracy, rule of law and human rights. The Council of Europe, NATO and the Treaty of Rome were the founding stones for a new Europe.

However, the end of World War II does not mark freedom to the nations of Central and Eastern Europe. Instead, one totalitarian regime was replaced by another when the Baltic states were brutally incorporated into the Soviet Union.

Two ruthless dictators – Hitler and Stalin – had divided Europe into their spheres of influence through secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Following the start of World War II on 1 September 1939, the Soviet Union occupied and annexed Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as a consequence of this agreement and the Soviet-German Boundary and Friendship Treaty.

The central and eastern part of the continent remained under the rule of communist regimes for almost half a century. The Soviet Union used overwhelming military force, indiscriminate repression, mass deportations and total ideological control to subjugate the Baltic nations.

The Soviet occupation continued until the collapse of the Soviet Union, thanks to the peaceful and determined efforts of our citizens in our territories and throughout the world, national independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania was restored in 1990-1991. A few years later, the Russian army was withdrawn from our states.

We pay tribute to those more than 60 Western countries which had not recognised the Soviet occupation of our states de jure. The Welles Declaration by the US Department of State started the policy of non-recognition on 23 July 1940.

Today, our nations are an integral part of the European Union and NATO. However, one cannot forget the tragic lessons of the past. We underline the importance of truth and justice. Misrepresentation of historical events that led to World War II and the division of Europe in the aftermath of the war constitute a regrettable effort to falsify history and question the very foundation of the contemporary international rules-based order.

We firmly reject the concept of spheres of influence and insist on equality of all nations. The imperative of international security requires continuous adherence to international law and agreed norms, as well as unconditional respect for the territorial integrity of all sovereign states and their right to choose their own security arrangements and enter into unions and alliances. We reiterate that NATO remains the foundation of the collective defence of our countries and the Trans-Atlantic link is of vital importance for the future security and stability of Europe.

We believe the Western democratic values and unity will ensure the future of the Baltic states and every European nation.

Cover: Kersti Kaljulaid, Egils Levits and Gitanas Nausėda. Photo by Ilmars Znotins/The Office of the Estonian President.

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