The Kremlin’s neo-Soviet line on the outcome and consequences of the Second World War, in evidence during the recent Victory Day celebrations (see EDM, May 5, 6, 10, 12) may have accelerated the passage of resolutions that were pending in the U.S. Senate and the European Parliament, condemning the occupation of the Baltic states and other Soviet crimes not acknowledged by Russia.
On May 21, the United States Senate passed a concurrent resolution, urging, “The government of the Russian Federation should issue a clear and unambiguous statement, admitting to and condemning the illegal occupation and annexation” until 1991 of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Implicitly but clearly refuting Moscow’s official version as restated during the anniversary celebrations, the Senate resolution notes that the Soviet Union’s incorporation of the Baltic states was “an act of aggression carried out against the will of sovereign nations” and that it “brought boundless suffering to the Baltic peoples through terror, killings, and deportations to Siberia.”
The resolution calls on Russia, in its capacity as the Soviet Union’s successor state, to repudiate the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact “which provided the Soviet Union with the opportunity to annex Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania,” and to make a “declaration of acknowledgment of the illegal occupation.” Such steps by Russia “would form the basis to improved relations” between Russia and the Baltic states. The companion resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to come to a vote soon (BNS, May 21).
The European Parliament passed on May 12 a resolution on the end of the Second World War, in an attempt at restoring balance to West European perspectives on recent history: “For some nations, the end of the war meant renewed tyranny,” such as “forced incorporation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union, and mass killings and deportations of their citizens.” While VE-Day meant liberation in Western Europe, the resolution notes, that day only arrived in Central and Eastern Europe “after many decades under Soviet domination or occupation.” A communist group in the European Parliament, along with Latvia’s Russian militant Tatyana Zhdanoka, opposed the resolution and assailed the Baltic states in the process (BNS, May 12, 13).
One of the resolution’s authors, Toomas Ilves of Estonia, noted after the passage, “An understanding of what the end of the war brought for Eastern Europe is only taking shape in Western Europe.” His Estonian colleague Tunne Kelam, in turn, observed that the treatment of Europe’s post-war history within the European Union is not yet balanced, as victims of communist rule are still being consigned to a second category, and a comprehensive condemnation of communist regimes is overdue. Lithuania’s Vytautas Landsbergis, a resolution coauthor, noted that the passage gained added importance in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that the Soviet Union’s collapse was the century’s greatest disaster. The resolution’s passage was a first step; the next must be for the EU to call on Russia’s authorities to overcome that understanding of history, which is “damaging to ordinary Russians and to international cooperation” (BNS, ELTA, May 12, 13).
Writing in the May 18 issue of the Vilnius daily Lietuvos Rytas, U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Stephen Mull noted that U.S. President George W. Bush had “acknowledged the terrible mistake the United States and its allies made at Yalta in betraying our ideals of freedom and consigning our friends to two generations of oppression.” At present, the Baltic states are a “shining example to Russia,” Mull cited Bush as saying when meeting recently in Riga with the three Baltic presidents (BNS, May 18).