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80th Anniversary of the Welles Declaration

Floor Speech

Date: July 23, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, in 1939, Hitler's Nazi Germany and Stalin's Communist Soviet Union signed a secret agreement to invade and create spheres of influence. The Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement allowed Hitler to invade the free and sovereign country of Poland, while the Soviet Union invaded the free and sovereign countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Eighty years ago today the United States responded with the Welles Declaration. Let me read it.

``Department of State, July 23, 1940, Statement by the Acting Secretary of State, the Honorable Sumner Welles.

``During these past few days the devious processes whereunder the political independence and territorial integrity of the three small Baltic republics, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, were to be deliberately annihilated by one of their more powerful neighbors, have been rapidly drawing to their conclusion.

``From the day when the people of these republics first gained their independent and democratic form of government the people of the United States have watched their admirable progress and self-government with deep and sympathetic interest.

``The policy of this Government is universally known. The people of the United States are opposed to predatory activities no matter whether they are carried on by the use of force or by the threat of force. They are likewise opposed to any form of intervention on the part of one state, however powerful, in the domestic concerns of any other sovereign state, however weak.

``These principles constitute the very foundations upon which the existing relationship between the 21 sovereign republics of the New World rests.

``The United States will continue to stand by these principles, because of the conviction of the American people that unless the doctrine in which these principles are inherent once again governs the relations between nations, the rule of reason, of justice and of law-- in other words, the basis of modern civilization itself--cannot be preserved.''

Mr. Speaker, this declaration here refused to recognize the Soviet annexation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This nonrecognition lasted 5 decades.

This declaration enabled the Baltic States to maintain free, diplomatic missions. And with this declaration, Executive Order 8484 protected Baltic financial assets.

Today, the United States joins Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in remembering this declaration and recommitting ourselves to peace, democracy, freedom, and the rule of law.

Subsequently, their entrance into NATO and the European Union assures them of being part of the family of western democracies.