Mr. President, today I am joined by Senators Dodd and Voinovich, fellow members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, in submitting a Concurrent Resolution congratulating the people of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on the tenth anniversary of the restoration of their full independence. The resolution also calls on the President of the United States to build upon the close and mutually beneficial relations with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania that have existed since the restoration of their full independence. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the reestablishment of full independence to the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania after almost five decades of illegal and brutal incorporation into the Soviet Union. The Baltic nations were independent between World War I and World War II. Their freedom and independence were stolen from them in a secret deal struck between Hitler and Stalin. During the Soviet era, thousands of Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians were executed, imprisoned or exiled by the Soviet regime as Moscow attempted to repress any resistance to its rule. Besides physically persecuting individuals, the Soviet Union also tried to destroy the rich heritage of the Baltic people, by degrading their culture and attempting to replace their native languages with Russian. It didn’t work. The Baltic people never gave up their hope for freedom and their long-held dream of independence.
Moreover, during the Soviet period of “glasnost” and “perestroika,” the Baltic people led the struggle for democratic reform and national consciousness. In the ten years following the restoration of their full independence, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have demonstrated their commitment to democracy, human rights, and rule of law at home. At the same time, they have actively participated in a wide range of international structures, while pursuing further integration into European political, economic and security organizations. Earlier today I had the pleasure to meet with President Vike-Freiberga of Latvia, in my capacity as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. I was joined by Co-Chairman Chris Smith and fellow Commissioner Zach Wamp. President Vike-Freiberga struck us as an impressive leader during our wide-ranging discussion of Euro-Atlantic cooperation and Latvia’s development since the restoration of independence. Therefore, it is fitting that we introduce this resolution today, coinciding with President Vike-Freiberga’s working visit to Washington. I urge my colleagues to join in supporting this resolution.