Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 171

Baltic leaders are reacting coolly to a Kremlin statement which challenged the legal basis of the restoration of the Baltic states’ independence. In separate interviews, Estonian prime minister Tiit Vahi and Latvian foreign minister Valdis Birkavs expressed "perplexity" over a Kremlin spokesman’s "disregard of obvious facts" when he denied the validity of the 1920 peace treaties and the legal continuity of the Baltic states. Vahi and Birkavs pointed out that the restoration of the Baltic states’ independence is based on the principle of the legal continuity of the pre-war states during the Soviet occupation period; and that the international community recognized that continuity while refusing to recognize the Soviet incorporation of the Baltic states. (BNS, September 11 and 12)

On September 10, Yeltsin’s new chief spokesman Yastrzhembsky stated that the 1920 peace treaties lost all validity in 1940 when the Baltic states "joined" the USSR. The USSR Supreme Soviet’s September 1991 recognition of the Baltic states’ independence "stems from the fact that they had been part of the USSR as Soviet Socialist Republics." "This is precisely Yeltsin’s position," he said. (Itar-Tass, Interfax, September 10) The statement is in line with the Russian Foreign Ministry’s familiar position, but uses stronger words and adds the disturbing implication that Moscow’s recognition of Baltic independence may be linked to acceptance of legal consequences stemming from the Soviet occupation. The rhetorical escalation coincides with the indefinite postponement by Moscow of senior-level Baltic visits (see News section above). Moscow appears interested in heating the atmosphere to foster the perception in NATO that admission of the Baltic states carries risks and liabilities for the alliance.

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