THE BALTIC STATES:
THE RETURN TO THE WEST
AND THE SEARCH FOR SECURITY
The rebirth of Baltic independence in the wake of the Soviet collapse is one of the miracles of our time. It is a demonstration of how the free spirit can survive even in the darkest of prisons. The three Baltic countries--Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania--were the last to join the USSR. An agreement between two of the most horrendous tyrants of this century, Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin (the Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact, signed in Moscow in August 1939), supported by all the might of the Red Army, forced them into the Soviet Union. They were also the first to leave.
Analysts and officials of The Heritage Foundation have supported Baltic independence and led the fight against diplomatic recognition of the Soviet occupation during the Cold War. Today, it is our great pleasure to host the foreign ministers of the three Baltic states. We recall fondly the speeches delivered in this building by President Vytautas Landsbergis of Lithuania and by several foreign ministers and defense ministers from the region, including Ministers Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia and Valdis Birkavs of Latvia, who are with us again today.
The challenge of Baltic security is of great importance for assuring peace in Europe during the coming century. The Baltic countries are strategically located at the intersection of the three major tectonic plates of Europe: the Nordic countries, Central and Eastern Europe, and Russia. Historically speaking, the influences of Scandinavia and Germany, as well as of Poland and Catholicism, have been stronger in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania than the tsarist Russian and Soviet influences that followed. Today, the Baltic countries are oriented toward the Euro-Atlantic community, and are successfully pursuing integration into its political and security structures.
The challenges facing U.S. policy toward the Baltic states are, first, to enhance their security without aggravating relations with Russia and to include Russia in cooperative arrangements in Northeastern Europe. America has to promote a stable economic and political environment in the region as a whole.
Second, the United States has to pay careful attention to the region in order to manage the security of the Baltics while addressing their aspirations to reintegrate into the West, including the Euro-Atlantic frameworks.
Third, because security issues in Northeastern Europe affect U.S. ties with Norway, Finland, and Sweden, the United States should encourage these countries to be fully engaged in bilateral and multilateral military relations with the countries in the region. The U.S. and the Nordic states do not want to see the Baltics become the scene of a conflict.
Fourth, the security of the Baltics affects the debate about the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The conflict with Serbia over Kosovo undoubtedly will raise new questions about the composition, goals, and roles of the alliance. The Kosovo conflict has greatly aggravated U.S.-Russian relations. It will not make the debate over any possible future enlargement of NATO any easier or simpler. Nor has the integration of the three new members into NATO (the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland) gone far enough for us to be able to draw lessons for the future. No doubt, the question of potential Baltic participation in NATO needs to be addressed in a deliberate and careful fashion, with the U.S. government and public clearly understanding what is at stake.
In the meantime, the United States can take effective steps to enhance Baltic security. A recent study,1 for example, in which I participated, has suggested that the United States can:
The three Baltic foreign ministers, our honored guests at The Heritage Foundation, will present their views on the future of Baltic security and Euro-Atlantic integration. Although focused on NATO, they can rightfully boast achievements on other fronts, such as improving relations with Russia, as is the case with Lithuania, or being on the fast track to European Union membership, as is the case for Estonia.
Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Policy Analyst for Russian and Eurasian Studies in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis International Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.
Few stood by us when times were bad. From the time of the invasion of Latvia in 1940, however, the United States was one country that refused to acknowledge that the Baltic states had become part of the USSR by legal means.
The United States stood for law and world order. We in Latvia applauded your endurance. Fifty years was a long time not to accept what others interpreted to be a fait accompli. Your diplomats and statesmen won lasting respect by paddling upstream against the general global consensus.
You see before you a triumvirate representative of cooperation in the very interesting, dynamic, and sensitive eastern Baltic Rim. Ministers Ilves, Saudargas, and I are political warriors and survivors and know quite a bit about what projects are viable. All of us are survivors of the democratic process.
A wrong path was chosen once upon a time in Yalta and Tehran. We are dealing with a tainted legacy that must be corrected in order to ensure security for our countries and lasting security in Europe. The idea held dear now by so many of us who came to celebrate NATO's 50th birthday is to start the next century on the right foot and with a solid foothold.
Washington is a good place to start on the true path. The founders of American independence left a heritage of ideals that inspire us even in faraway countries up to the present day. Things were done right at the beginning of this noble project, which gave so much into the hands of the individual human being.
I could deliver a talk focusing on what we have done and what we are doing to prepare for NATO--about this year's 40 percent increase in defense spending and how it is backed by a determination to achieve a defense budget of 2 percent of gross domestic product.
I should mention that on the military level, joint projects link the Baltic states in common activity directed at developing skills and systems interoperable with NATO. Each Baltic state provided personnel for the OSCE verification mission in Kosovo, and we have issued pledges to participate in a peace implementation force. Latvia will send a medical team to assist with the refugees.
Will Washington be "Madrid plus" for the Baltic states? It will be if clarity, commitment, and continuity (the three Cs) are shown with respect to the enlargement process. We would then claim that Washington was a success.
Clarity can be achieved by mentioning Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia by name. Though no new candidates are expected, real candidates should be provided with practical mechanisms for incorporation within the alliance. A customized Membership Action Plan would be a good expression of commitment from NATO. And to maintain the continuity of NATO enlargement, the next summit ought to be scheduled. Pauses hurt.
Our ability to promote changes to benefit all members of our multi-ethnic society will be enhanced by NATO membership. It is difficult to argue good intentions. The only way to advance friendship is through interaction and through person-to-person contact over generations.
We need to develop a long-term plan for regional development that invites the most willing and interested peoples of the Baltic Rim to take part in community-building. The northwestern part of Russia--the part which is most approachable--should be included in the plan.
Regional Cooperation. Regional cooperation is well-established in the Nordic Council. There are five countries--Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark--and these five then meet with the three Baltic states.
Then there is the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS) and the Barents Euro Arctic Council (BEAC). CBSS is 5 + 3 + 3, making 11 countries. Poland, Germany, and Russia belong to the CBSS along with the Nordic Council countries and the Baltic states. In the last meeting of CBSS foreign ministers, representatives of the United States, France, and Ukraine attended as observers.
Cooperation Among the Baltic States. The people of the Baltic states have always emphasized the importance of independence based on individual character and accomplishment. In this context, a lively cooperation has always existed due to the fruitfulness of exchanges and trade. The cooperation exists on various levels and in various fields, and Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia use the trilateral cooperation quite consciously as a force multiplier in international affairs.
There are regular meetings of the presidents of the Baltic states and of the Council of Ministers at the level of prime minister. The foreign ministers and defense ministers meet several times a year. The leaders also meet as the need arises.
Informal meetings have been held to sound out and coordinate initiatives and common positions for airing at multilateral conferences. Foreign ministers frequently employ the 3 + 1 format for meetings. This has been used especially with Germany and the United States. I would wager that membership in NATO will only increase the meaning of our trilateral cooperation.
There is the Baltic Battalion--BALTBAT--in Latvia, near Riga. This battalion furnishes peacekeeping forces like the ones that we have been sending to Bosnia. The Baltic Naval Squadron is called BALTRON. The Baltic Air Surveillance Network is BALTNET. And the Baltic Defense College is called BALTDEFCOL. This February the creation of a Baltic air force was announced.
These projects are developed in cooperation with our Western partners, with the BALTSEA working group, which coordinates Western defense-related military assistance to the Baltic states, serving as the forum of assistance coordination.
It may be worth asking at some point this afternoon what exactly it is we have to celebrate on NATO's birthday. The main thing I see to celebrate is a united stand in defense of common principles which place the value of the individual human being over that of the collective, the nation.
The myth of national superiority is driving the killing in Kosovo. NATO states and the Baltic states, however, have a different ethic, a different motivation for national pride. Pride should be based on merit and the success of a system of government which upholds the inherent value of each unique soul, and not a value placed on some particular race or religion or skin color.
This weekend, then, we can be celebrating the community of values which has arisen among NATO countries and aspiring candidates, the principle of an undivided and indivisible Europe linked with America, and the success of an effort at security cooperation which has resulted in the most effective military organization in the 20th century.
The Transatlantic Link. The across-the-Atlantic link idea is also deeply imbedded in the U.S.-Baltic Charter signed in Washington a year ago. It is worth reviewing this document to see how the United States asserts its vision of the Baltic states in NATO.
We Latvian diplomats are quite open in support for the transatlantic link to Europe. For Latvia, the importance of the U.S. link is self-evident. We do not think that regional security insurance is available in our part of the world. Regional security solely for our area is simply not possible. And America and the American Congress can help to boost our security--if they want to.
A European defense identity is emerging. The Combined Joint Task Force and the Western European Union carry the kernels. The states of Europe realize that the United States, in spite of its advantages with airlift and satellites, should not be perpetually concerned with having to ride or fly to the rescue like the Lone Ranger or Superman.
NATO is an organization ready to act in a pinch. We have plenty of places to talk about peace and human rights. NATO is on the world stage doing something about it, and this is why we want to belong to it. We do not see neutrality as an option. Latvia wishes to contribute to European security, and NATO is at the core. Neutrality led to occupation. It would be foolish to choose a dead-end policy twice.
What role does NATO play, and what role need NATO play, for the Baltic states? For one thing, NATO should be an actor defending principle, as it is doing in Kosovo--many countries acting as one unit, one team, encouraging the peaceful and making life hot for the unsavory and undemocratic.
A principle worth defending is the wish of the people of the Baltic states to be free--free to contemplate a future with the knowledge that we will be able to face the multitude of risks of the 21st century, including terrorism, organized crime, and dangers to the global ecosystem.
I believe the effects of NATO's action to stop Milosevic will be far-reaching and positive for the Baltic states. The countries of Europe must be cohesive in the face of such challenges. In fact, the pattern of support for action in Kosovo shows where the future boundaries of the alliance are taking shape.
This Easter, in Riga, passersby laid a path of flowers stretching several city blocks from the Monument of Freedom. This was in remembrance of a single day in 1949 when over 40,000 Latvians were deported. People were packed like sardines into trains and sent to Siberia. Many never returned. And as in Kosovo, often the educated elite, leaders and potential leaders, bore the brunt of a strategy to control through use of terror.
The ethnic purge of Kosovar Albanians commenced over one year ago. It was terrorism perpetrated by a government against its own people. The diplomacy not backed by force was hurting the name of diplomacy. The credibility of European defense was on the line. Latvia supported the NATO commitment to resolution of the crisis.
Russia. Naturally, we welcome Russia's staying engaged in the search for a solution to the crisis. A constructive relationship between Russia and NATO and the EU is in our best interests. We see ourselves as future members of the alliance, and good bilateral relations with Russia are one of our top priorities.
On Monday, March 29, an anti-NATO demonstration was held in front of the consulate of Latvia in Pskov, Russia. About four dozen protesters appeared carrying placards with slogans such as "Yankee Go Home" and "Russians and Serbs: Brothers." The provocation? Latvia had been vocal in support of NATO, and in the absence of missions from NATO countries, our office was selected as a target for the protest.
Complaints about NATO enlargement are clearly intended to divert public attention from the real economic and social problems, domestic and international. A speedy and clear-cut enlargement process is the only way to bring an end to this illusory debate.
Some 250,000 were killed in Bosnia; 2 million became refugees. Now we have a million more refugees and displaced persons, Albanians from Kosovo. Tens of thousands have "disappeared," pulled from their houses at night and now popping up as graves in satellite photos. NATO is saying that enough is enough.
NATO aircraft are striking targets with precision. As of yesterday, over 7,000 sorties were flown with only one shootdown. NATO is successfully reducing Belgrade's ability to continue with repression.
The Measure of Success. This week has driven home the fact that developments in technology are not matched by complementary advances in human consciousness. We have not learned to adequately predict the groundswells of madness and psychosis, the turn of mood and mind which results in taking another's life or one's own life.
In the current operation, the degree of success will be measured not simply by NATO's capacity to rein in a rogue elephant, but also by the number of refugees who manage safely to find their way back to a new life in Kosovo. Every refugee who does not go back is a point in favor of Milosevic.
The ultimate success of the NATO operation in Kosovo will not depend only on what allied military forces accomplish. It will require coordination with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and a war crimes tribunal.
We are confident that the NATO summit in Washington will be projecting a unity of purpose. The war in the Balkans, however, is creating a southward drift in attention. The need to anchor the Baltic states should also receive due discussion.
Mistakes of history should not be repeated. In 1956, Europe was distracted by the Suez Canal crisis and lost sight of developments closer to home in Hungary. The work of constructing a new European architecture requires constant attention to all parts of the map of Europe.
NATO deserves to be at the center of European security architecture. To reach the center, the alliance must enlarge to include all eligible candidate countries. Until the Baltic states are included in NATO, Europe will not be fully united.
His Excellency Dr. Valdis Birkavs is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia.
In 1994, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt published an article titled "The Baltic Litmus-Test" in Foreign Affairs, in which he examined Baltic security in the post-Cold War era. Bildt's aim was to redress an imbalance in thinking on European security. While international attention was focused on the Balkans, argued Bildt, stability in the Baltic Sea area was no less important to European security.
Bildt was right: Foreign--that is, Russian--troops were still stationed on the territory of two sovereign states; official Russian rhetoric on the so-called Near Abroad, as well as various threats, military as well as economic, toward Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, made a number of people in the region nervous.
Equally disturbing was that inappropriate threats and bluster were passed off in too many Western capitals as being "only for Russian domestic consumption," as if that were a legitimate argument. Scenes from the Chechen war only increased the level of anxiety.
A New Stability. Five years later, Balkan issues, as we all know too well, remain at the forefront of the European and transatlantic security agenda. The security concerns of the Baltic Sea, however, no longer seem as acute. Indeed, the peaceful Baltic Sea region provides a sharp contrast to the instability in Southeast Europe.
The uncertainty, unpredictability, and fear of fragmentation that dominated the beginning of the post-Cold War era are gone. A dense web of multilateral organizations and, more important, active cooperation has supplanted the Iron Curtain that separated Estonia from our cultural and historical Nordic cousins.
Some issues still linger, of course, but many of the "stability concerns" that Bildt described in 1994 have either diminished or disappeared. A good example is the establishment of normally functioning borders in the region.
The overall increase in stability in Northern Europe has not gone unnoticed. The European Union has dramatically stepped up its involvement in the Nordic-Baltic region. Under Finnish leadership, the EU has adopted a Northern Dimension to draw the member states' attention to Northern Europe. The United States has also demonstrated its "real, profound and enduring" interest in the region through the Baltic Charter and its Northern European Initiative.
A More Secure Estonia. Estonia has obviously benefited from these developments. We are more secure because the world around us is more stable. We are also more secure because we are more integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community.
Estonia is a member of many international organizations, including the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations. We are also a NATO aspirant and an associated partner of the Western European Union. We are an associated EU member and are one of the five former communist countries that, since the Luxembourg decision in 1997, have been negotiating accession.
All these institutions and forms of cooperation have contributed to enhancing our security and sovereignty. But more work must be done to consolidate this newfound stability. Estonia is not yet a full member of the two most important multilateral organizations in Europe: the EU and NATO.
In 1996, not many would have believed that only two years later, Estonia would be starting accession negotiations along with Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Cyprus. Now our inclusion in the so-called 5 + 1 group has become a political reality.
While, before, we concentrated our efforts on the foreign policy aspect of this process, our focus now is no longer on the global political issue of how far Estonia has advanced and whether or not it should be invited to the first round of negotiations. Today, Estonian diplomats are not concerned with political lobbying in EU capitals; rather, officials from the other ministries travel to Brussels to deal with issues such as fishing quotas in Lake Peipus and deficiencies in phytosanitary control systems: in short, how to transpose 80,000 pages of EU legislation or "acquis."
Two Central Priorities. We have two central priorities in the field of EU integration: First, to bring our accession negotiations to a successful conclusion, and second, to prepare for accession to the Union. We are working on meeting these two priorities in parallel.
Obviously, this means a double effort on the part of our negotiators. It also means a double burden on our civil service. Indeed, as I have already said, the bulk of our work is domestic. Tackling the numerous legal, technical, and administrative challenges on the road to full membership is sure to keep us occupied well into the next century.
I am convinced, however, that our efforts will be well worth our while. Apart from the obvious economic benefits, EU membership will give us a voice in Europe and its evolving foreign and security policy.
In Madrid, NATO took one of the most decisive steps of the post-Cold War era: inviting Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join the alliance. NATO also made a firm commitment to further enlargement with its "open door" policy.
Membership Action Plan. We are look forward to the Membership Action Plan. This will add several initiatives to an already well-established program, and our aim is to make effective use of this new instrument. After all, the basic issue with respect to both EU and NATO integration is the readiness of aspirants to assume the obligations of membership.
This summit will be another step in the process of NATO enlargement. But more steps loom on the horizon. Our aim is to be ready for membership the next time that NATO issues invitations. My government is committed to raising defense spending in order to meet this goal.
In a way, we are in a better position than Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were before they started to prepare for membership. We have the advantage of a more developed framework to help us prepare. We also have the benefit of their experience and support. We will be consulting with them to learn as much as possible.
Some who are shaping Western security thinking have suggested that a regional arrangement for Northern Europe might be possible. This is not in line with the principle of indivisibility of security. As Kosovo demonstrates, no single country or region can meet post-Cold War security challenges alone. All 19 NATO member states agreed that action was necessary. All aspirant states have lent their political and practical support.
Sharing the burden of responsibility and risk is the only way to maintain stability throughout Europe. NATO enlargement is merely the most elegant and effective way to give substance to this reality. This is why we must focus on bringing all aspirants into the alliance. We must keep setting targets in this process. Setting dates for future summits forces us to deal with enlargement-related issues.
His Excellency Toomas Hendrik Ilves is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia.
It is my pleasure to address you here in Washington, D.C., during the historic NATO summit which marks the 50th anniversary of the alliance. I believe that the decisions reached by the alliance members will serve to strengthen the process of further enlargement of the alliance, thereby solidifying its key role as a guarantor of the security, stability, and welfare of the Euro-Atlantic community.
At the same time, we are witnesses to intolerable acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing in a part of Europe just outside the borders of alliance members. And NATO members have been forced to act decisively to try to end this tragedy on its very doorstep.
We deeply regret that the persistent efforts of the international community to settle the conflict in Kosovo by diplomatic means have failed. NATO had no other choice but to take military action in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia aimed at stopping both the genocide and ethnic cleansing carried out by Yugoslav military, police, and paramilitary forces against Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.
Aiding the Refugees. Lithuania has joined other members of the international community to help ease the suffering of these innocent people expelled from their homes. To this end, our government allotted 500,000 litas ($125,000) for humanitarian aid to the refugees from the Kosovo province. The humanitarian aid has already been shipped this week to Macedonia.
We have also agreed to grant temporary asylum for up to 100 refugees from Kosovo. Lithuania is ready to participate in the NATO-led humanitarian operation "Allied Harbor" in Albania and plans on sending two ambulance teams. As developments in Kosovo evolve, Lithuania will be considering further ways of contributing to the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The atrocities in Kosovo and NATO's actions once more demonstrate the importance of a strong, united, and decisive alliance which can act in defense of its shared democratic values of justice, morality, and human dignity. Moreover, this conflict reminds us of the importance of further expanding the alliance's zone of stability in Europe.
My country has made significant efforts to contribute to the stability of Europe, particularly in the Northern region. We thank the United States and Europe's NATO and non-NATO members for joining us in this endeavor.
Today, we wait for the alliance's deliberations at this historic summit and sincerely hope that we will hear strong confirmation that Lithuania and the other Baltic states are irreversibly on the path of NATO membership. This could be achieved by confirming Lithuania as a candidate for a subsequent round of NATO enlargement. In this way, we NATO candidates and NATO members would be uniting our efforts to implement more effectively the roadmap for membership.
On our part, the objective of integration into NATO is firm, and the steps we have been taking since the Madrid summit testify to that resolve. Lithuania has successfully transformed its economy into one of the most rapidly growing economies in Central and Eastern Europe, with GDP growth of 5.4 percent and an inflation rate of only 2.4 percent last year.
Changing the Economy. Preparing to meet NATO's membership requirements has led to structural changes in Lithuania's economy that help our reform process. These reforms have stimulated economic growth, which in turn draws more foreign investors to our country.
I am particularly pleased to note that the United States is the leader in terms of direct foreign investment in Lithuania, with a 17.5 percent share of the total. Let me state for the record that a substantial U.S. economic presence in our country is of strategic importance to Lithuania and the whole Baltic region.
Building a Modern Armed Force. Of great importance to Lithuania, and to NATO itself, is the country's ability to build a modern armed force capable of mounting a credible defense. We have consistently increased our defense spending since 1995. The defense budget this year is 1.51 percent of GDP (US$181 million), and according to legislation passed earlier this year, it will increase to 2 percent of GDP (US$300 million) in 2001. We are confident that this commitment of resources will help Lithuania to implement a credible development plan of the armed forces and increase our interoperability with NATO.
We expect the Membership Action Plan (MAP)--that is to be announced by NATO tomorrow--together with an enhanced Partnership for Peace program to constitute a very practical and membership-tailored element of NATO's open door policy. In other words, it will provide substance to a policy which was in danger of dissolving into rhetoric.
In this context, let me add that Lithuania has already established a Coordination Commission of our Integration to NATO. It is meant to enhance our administrative capacity and institutionalize internal coordination among the government ministries to better prepare ourselves for our accession talks with NATO. There is an unwavering determination to proceed on this path and make the MAP a success for us, for the alliance, and for our mutual goal of European security.
Lithuania contributes to transatlantic security through its active participation in international peace operations. Since August 1994, Lithuania has participated in NATO's peacekeeping force in Bosnia-Herzegovina and remains an active participant there with 190 military personnel. Lithuania supported U.S. efforts against Iraq during the 1998 crisis and has been actively involved at the international level through U.N. and OSCE missions in Bosnia, Albania, Croatia, and Ukraine.
We project openness and stability in the region by active diplomacy with our neighbors, particularly with Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, and the Russian Federation. Today, Lithuania's relations with Russia are good, and they will remain so in the future.
Cooperation in Kaliningrad. The best example of our positive and productive relationship involves the Kaliningrad region of Russia, where our cooperation against new threats and the promotion of even and stable development in the Baltic Sea region are both practical and mutually beneficial. The safety of our citizens is affected by the economic and social factors in the broader region. We therefore believe that it is in our interests to contribute to the stable and balanced economic development of Kaliningrad and to assist it in becoming an attractive partner for trade and development.
The Lithuanian business community is doing its share in this regard. Lithuania has become one of Kaliningrad's principal trading partners and one of its main investors. Although the current Russian financial crisis has affected trade between the two nations, I still believe that Lithuanian businessmen will continue to remain economically engaged in Kaliningrad.
We are pleased and encouraged that all of our efforts for NATO integration are recognized by the U.S. Administration, and hope that they will be properly evaluated when the allies make a decision to invite Lithuania to join the alliance.
In conclusion, let me say that the addition of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary to the alliance is a sound step in the right direction. That is a step which begins to erase the vestiges of the Iron Curtain.
I am convinced that the membership of these states in NATO will strengthen the alliance. But the process of NATO enlargement should move forward to address the aspirations of countries such as Lithuania and further expand the zone of security and stability in Europe. Keeping the pace of enlargement steady will help to heal the wounds of history.
Lithuanians believe that NATO must remain a strong military alliance that is capable of achieving rapid consensus for decisive action in a crisis. As a NATO member, we will work actively to enhance the alliance's ability to achieve consensus because that is NATO's core strength which serves Lithuania's national interests and preserves the peace in Europe.
His Excellency Algirdas Saudargas is Foreign Minister of the Republic of Lithuania.