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Reception Marking 85th Anniversary of U.S.-Baltic State Relations

Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
The Honorable Urmas Paet, Foreign Minister, Republic of Estonia, The Honorable Artis Pabriks, Foreign Minister, Republic of Latvia, The Honorable Petras Vaitiekunas, Foreign Minister, Republic of Lithuania
Benjamin Franklin Room, U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC
June 14, 2007

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U.S.-Baltic Relations: Celebrating 85 Years of Friendship

Left to right, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks, Assistant Secretary Daniel Fried and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas.  State Dept. photo by Mark StewartAssistant Secretary Fried: Friends and colleagues. It's a pleasure to be here and to celebrate 85 years of uninterrupted U.S. recognition of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. And I am honored to be joined by the foreign ministers of three NATO Allies and three members of the European Union. I am mindful of the fact that there are people in this room for whom this was an ambition of many years and a dream they thought would never happen, but for which they fought and which in the end was achieved.

The fact that these three countries, having been ripped apart by Hitler and Stalin, could survive and reemerge and stand for democracy and freedom, and then join with Europeans and Americans as Europeans themselves, and help extend the blessings of freedom beyond Europe's borders is one of the great miracles of the 20th and early 21st centuries. There are people in this room who helped make that happen, so it is an honor to be here and an honor to present my friends and colleagues, three foreign ministers, and an honor to be with you.

Now I am told that each of the foreign ministers will make remarks so we will start with the north, and Foreign Minster Paet of Estonia.

Foreign Minister Paet: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, I am very glad to be here today to celebrate with you the 85th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Estonia.

But at the same time, the 14th of June is also a very tragic day in our history, in the history of Estonia. As you remember, 66 years ago on the 14th of June more than 10,000 Estonians were deported by Soviet militaries to Siberia and most of them lost their lives there in Siberia.

But when we speak about our relations and cooperation between the United States and Estonia it has been always very active. Even during these 50 very tragic years of Soviet occupation in Estonia, the positions of the United States, the statements that the United States never recognized the occupation of Estonia was for us very important and also helped generations in Estonia to survive all those difficult five decades.

Now we can be together, our nations, our countries in NATO. We are together in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Balkans. So we share the same values, for us, for both of our nations, the freedom, the liberties - they are the main principles how to organize a free, democratic society.

I thank you all for the support Estonia and Estonians got from you all during those decades, and I thank you very much, the United States of America, for this sincere and clear support to Estonia during all difficult times. Thank you.


Foreign Minister Pabriks: Thank you. It is a fate for Latvians to be always among Lithuanians and Estonians, and it is a nice fate because on both sides we have good friends. And, of course, our history in many ways is the same history of suffering, but also of successes.

You all have been reading the history of the Baltics, the history of the world; you know what happened with us in the 20th century. Two world wars, independence war, collectivization, deportations, et cetera, et cetera. A lot of suffering. But if you are looking in the future, then in this case maybe it's a little strange but it somehow comes into mind one of the pop singer's words from Freddy Mercury, "Life goes on."

Eighty-five years anniversary of diplomatic relations between Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania on one side, and the United States of America from another side. It is proof that life goes on. Also that contents of our discussion with Condoleezza Rice today proves that yes, we do remember our history. We can wonder why exactly 85 years and why exactly it happened in 1922. But our policies and our friendship is shaped by two factors.

One factor is, and this is a very good example of American-Baltic relationships, that this is one of the, maybe seldom cases, but we hope that those cases will become more and more known in world politics, namely that morals and principles on the one side, and pragmatic real politick on the other side can be united. Eight-five years anniversary proves that if you are strong in your principles, then those principles and morals makes also very great practical impact on the politics. That's how it happened in our case, and that is how it will stay.

Secondly, our discussion also shows that we have so many important issues to discuss among ourselves bilaterally and multilaterally, but our interests start coming together and our world views are very very similar if not in many ways identical.

So life goes on and so world goes on.

Thank you for this reception, and we are looking forward for the next decade of such anniversary.


Foreign Minister Vaitiekunas: Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to be in Washington, DC today to celebrate together with my distinguished colleagues the 85th anniversary of unbroken diplomatic relations between Lithuania and the United States. June 14th is a day that we in Lithuania commemorate mass deportations of Lithuanians to Siberia.

In 2000 in Vilnius we initiated a process of cooperation, a process of cooperation among ten NATO aspirants. Today we believe that the Vilnius process should continue because security and prosperity does not stop on our own borders. It must continue in order to achieve the integration of Albania, Croatia, Macedonia into Euro-Atlantic institutions and to help Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia succeed in strengthening their democracies. The Vilnius process should support the process of the quorum in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and elsewhere, and last but not least give the people of Belarus the hope of some day living in a democratic society.

The key element of success of Vilnius process is once again the transatlantic link, the reliable partnership and cooperation of its members. Unity between us is essential.

As President Bush said in Vilnius in 2002, anyone who would choose Lithuania as an enemy has also made an enemy of the United States of America. And let me rephrase these words and to reflect Lithuania's perception of perspective of transatlantic cooperation. I believe that anyone who is Lithuania's friend is a good friend of the United States, too.

Thank you for being with us.


Assistant Secretary Fried: I was inspired by something Minister Pabriks said, and I'd like to close with this thought, or close the official portion of this reception.

During the period of Soviet occupation it was considered profoundly unrealistic to speak seriously of Baltic independence. It was something which was always to be cherished in theory and a cause rolled out for Captive Nations Week, but it wasn't something that serious foreign policy devotees and practitioners truly believed would ever happen. It was, as they say, not realistic. But the higher realism, rooted in freedom and values, turned out to be the stronger and wiser way.

So let us keep that in mind when we hear realists devalue the power of freedom, as often happens. Freedom is often denied and it is delayed, but it has a way of coming back. And what seems impossible one year or for one decade or for a generation often turns out in retrospect to seem inevitable. So it was with Baltic independence, and so it may be with causes of freedom elsewhere in the world.

Thank you for being here, and thank you for your devotion to this cause.

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