Named after U.S. diplomat and Secretary of State Sumner Welles, the Declaration acted as a touchstone for all defenders of Baltic independence for decades, and recent attempts by the Russian government to rewrite the history of World War II make it just as relevant today as ever.
To mark the occasion, the foreign ministers of all three Baltic states plus the latest U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, issued a joint statement. Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs sent out a copy of the statement via social media.
“We stand firmly against any attempts by Russia to rewrite history in order to justify the 1940 occupation and annexation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union.”— Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) July 23, 2020
JOINT STATEMENT BY THE 🇺🇸SECRETARY OF STATE AND MINISTERS OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF 🇪🇪🇱🇻🇱🇹 #WellesDeclaration80 pic.twitter.com/FK1p3iLKCa
More on the background and importance of the Welles Declaration can be read at this informative page from the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs which says:
"The Sumner Welles Declaration was the foundation for the United States foreign policy on the Baltic States issue. That legally well-founded position developed into a political stance firmly maintained by the United States, and it was subsequently supported by more than 50 countries, which deemed the occupation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as illegitimate."
You can read more on the fascinating background to the diplomatic landmark in this historical piece LSM produced last year.
As to the original Welles Declaration, the text released on July 23, 1940 said:
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 peoples of those Republics first gained their independent and democratic form of government the people of the United States have watched their admirable progress in 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 twenty-one 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.