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Public Papers - 1991

Message to the Congress Transmitting the Report on Restoration of the Baltic States Independence

1991-06-25

To the Congress of the United States:

In accordance with Public Law 101 - 309 (104 Stat. 265), I am submitting to you this report on U.S. Government actions in support of the peaceful restoration of independence for the Baltic States.

In 1940, the Soviet Union forcibly occupied the independent Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Following sham elections, the three countries were incorporated into the USSR. The United States has never recognized the incorporation of the Baltic States into the USSR. The United States maintains diplomatic relations with representatives of their last free governments and is in close touch with the new democratically elected governments in each of the three Baltic States.

The United States has consistently stood with the majority of Balts who never lost hope that they would one day regain their freedom. In the late 1980s, pro-democracy movements in the three Baltic States emerged and began to grow in strength. Among the most active were Sajudis in Lithuania, the Latvian Popular Front, and the Estonian Popular Front and Estonian Citizens' Committees. In largely free elections in early 1990, pro-democracy forces gained a majority in all three legislatures and formed pro-independence governments.

On March 11, 1990, the Lithuanian legislature proclaimed the full and immediate restoration of Lithuanian independence. Eight days later, on March 19, President Gorbachev declared the Lithuanian proclamation invalid and insisted that the Lithuanians restore the status quo that existed prior to March 11 and recognize the supremacy of Soviet law. The Soviet government followed up this decree with intimidating troop movements in Vilnius and later an economic embargo on the supply of key products, including oil and natural gas. Undeterred, Estonia and Latvia subsequently issued their own proclamations espousing restoration of independence as their goal following a transitional period.

In response to the Soviet embargo against Lithuania, I conveyed to President Gorbachev my deepest concern and regret over Soviet actions and urged him to begin a peaceful dialogue with the Lithuanian government. Secretary Baker pressed the same points in exchanges with Foreign Minister Shevardnadze. Finally, in late June 1990, the Soviet government lifted its embargo when the Lithuanian Supreme Council agreed to a formula whereby the independence proclamation would be suspended during the course of negotiations with Moscow on Lithuania's future.

Thereafter, Moscow and the three Baltic States began to inch toward talks, but these broke off after only a few sessions with each side accusing the other of being unwilling to negotiate in good faith.

At the end of 1990, pro-Moscow forces in the three Baltic States stepped up their pressure on the popularly elected governments there. In January, pro-Moscow forces -- including local Communist Party members, Black Beret special Interior ministry troops, and Soviet Army paratroops -- attacked and occupied communications and other facilities in Vilnius, Riga, and other cities, leaving at least 21 dead.

In the wake of this Soviet pressure against the Baltic States, our Government has undertaken a vigorous diplomatic effort designed both to help avert future violent confrontations in the Baltic States and to enable the Baltic peoples to realize their legitimate but long-denied aspirations. We have held lengthy exchanges with our NATO Allies, neutral countries, and central European democracies on this issue. We have succeeded in forging a strong, common position among CSCE signatories rejecting violence and intimidation and calling for peaceful dialogue among the parties. The United States currently supports giving the Baltic States observer status at CSCE meetings and will support full membership once these nations regain independent statehood.

Also this spring, the United States took a leading role in the U.N. Human Rights Commission's (UNHRC) discussion of the January violence in the Baltic States. The United States successfully worked for consensus on the UNHRC resolution calling on the Soviet Union to review the January events and provide a full report to the Commission.

In numerous contacts with Soviet President Gorbachev and other Soviet officials since mid-January, both Secretary Baker and I have repeatedly raised the matter of the Baltic States. There can be no doubt that the Soviet leadership understands this issue's importance to the United States and our unwavering support for the cause of Baltic freedom. We have underscored the unacceptability of the use of force and intimidation and the urgent need for dialogue and negotiations with the freely elected representatives of the Baltic States, which will lead to an outcome that respects Baltic aspirations for self-determination. Each of the Baltic States began negotiations with the Soviet Union on a broad range of issues in April. We are following these talks closely and hope they will be conducted in good faith, free of threats and intimidation by all sides.

Secretary Baker and I have met with representatives of the Baltic States on numerous occasions. I met with Lithuanian President Landsbergis, Estonian Prime Minister Savisaar, and Latvian Prime Minister Godmanis in May; with Estonian President Ruutel in March; with President Landsbergis in December 1990; Prime Minister Savisaar in October 1990; Prime Minister Godmanis in July 1990; and then-Prime Minister Prunskiene in May 1990. Secretary Baker has met with the three Baltic permanent representatives in Moscow and with the foreign ministers of all three Baltic States in Washington, New York, and Paris. Our Consulate General in Leningrad also maintains a nearly continuous diplomatic presence in the Baltic States and is in close contact with the governments there. We have used these and other contacts with Baltic leaders to keep current on the state of affairs in the Baltic States and to convey U.S. support for the legitimate aspirations of the Baltic peoples.

In addition, the Department of State maintains regular contact with the Charges d'Affaires of the three Baltic diplomatic legations accredited to the United States. The radio services of Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America have also played an important role in conveying and explaining U.S. policy on the Baltic States.

The Administration has also attempted to express our support for the Baltic people in new ways. Working through Project Hope, we shipped medical aid directly to the Baltics on February 28 to meet basic medical needs. We are now following up with a second shipment of medical supplies this month. We provided U.S. technical help to Latvia after a chemical spill in the Daugava River in November 1990. The Department of Agriculture began a program to assist Lithuanian agriculture and support U.S. agricultural sales there by modernizing a feedgrain mill. Visits by a number of Members of Congress and Administration officials have also underscored the American people's support for Baltic self-determination.

These extensive contacts reflect our recognition of the fact that these governments are democratically elected, represent the will of the Baltic peoples, and deserve our support.

The United States has stood and will continue to stand in solidarity with the Baltic peoples in their striving for freedom and self-determination. Our intensified diplomatic efforts over the past year have played a critical role in galvanizing global support for the cause of the Baltic peoples and for a peaceful, negotiated outcome that takes proper account of legitimate Baltic interests. We strongly encourage the Soviet government and the three Baltic governments to progress in talks begun in early April on the issues that divide them.

George Bush

The White House,

June 25, 1991.

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
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