Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 63

Commenting on the failure of last week’s round of Russian-Estonian talks on defining their common border, Estonian president Lennart Meri told the press that the difficulty stemmed not from any land claims but from the Russian side’s view — as reaffirmed by chief negotiator Vasily Svirin and the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Baltic affairs division Aleksandr Udaltsov — that Estonia joined the USSR voluntarily and not as a consequence of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. That view continues the tradition of Molotov and Vyshinsky (Soviet foreign ministers, the latter also a subjugator of Latvia), Meri commented. He ruled out any bargaining over the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia. (BNS, March 29) Beyond historical or political issues, at stake is a basic tenet of Estonian statehood. As in other contexts, Moscow in these negotiations denies the validity of the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty in which Soviet Russia recognized Estonia and which also established a mutual border. Moscow claims that Estonia’s "joining" the USSR in 1940 superseded the Tartu treaty, leaving it with only "historical" but not juridical value. That position denies Estonia’s legal continuity following the Soviet occupation. In the current border negotiations, Tallinn is offering to drop claims to more than 2,000 square kilometers of Estonian territory transferred to the Russian Federation following the Soviet occupation, but wants some form of Russian recognition of the Tartu treaty’s legal validity. Post-Soviet Moscow, however, refuses to concede even implicitly the unlawful character of the Soviet occupation of Estonia.

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