On September 20-21, 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia commented on a statement made by the Foreign Minister of Estonia, Urmas Reinsalu, who spoke about Russia compensating for loss sustained through Soviet occupation. In one case, the Russian Foreign Ministry and its representative, Maria Zakharova, denied the occupation of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia and claimed that they joined the Soviet Union in accordance with norms of international law. On the other hand, Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister stated that Baltic countries have been living on subsidies from the European Union up until today and that these subsidies would soon end.
Sputnik Abkhazia: “The Foreign Ministry explained that it considers the process of Baltic countries joining the Soviet Union in accordance with norms of international law of that time. The Russian Foreign Ministry believes that the term ‘occupation’ cannot be used here, as no military actions took place between the Soviet Union and the Baltic countries and that Soviet troops were accepted based on a clear agreement from the governments of the Baltic countries.”
Maria Zakharova: “We would like to once again emphasize that our position on this matter remains unchanged: we consider the use of the term ‘Soviet occupation’ unacceptable. Someone is trying to interpret the Soviet liberation of European nations as something like the actions committed by Nazi German. We also reject these legally void bids towards Russia.”
Sergey Lavrov: “Baltic countries live on subsidies from the European Union, but in the nearest future, the aid will stop.”
The statements of the Foreign Ministry of Russia are lies, as the Soviet Union occupied Baltic countries through violation of international law. Baltic countries have quite strong economies and they are ahead of Russia by GDP per capita, and they will continue receiving EU funds in the future, just like other members of the EU.
Myth 1: Soviet Union did not occupy the Baltic countries. The annexation of these countries was justified by the international law of that time.
Reality 1: Soviet Union occupied the Baltic countries through the violation of international law and established Soviet governance there.
Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia became independent countries after the First World War. In the beginning of the 1920s, a pact between the Soviet Russia and the Baltic countries became inevitable. In 1920, Moscow signed agreements with Estonia and then with Latvia and Lithuania, subsequently denying any legal, political, and territorial bids in the Baltic Sea region.
The “Peace Treaty” between the Soviet Union and Estonia from February 2, 1920: “Russia recognizes the independence and autonomy of Estonia and permanently and voluntarily surrenders the sovereign right that Russia previously had on Estonia.”
At the end of 1930s, when Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, interests of the USSR towards the Baltic Sea region became evident. Part of the pact was about Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. USSR and Nazi Germany, in the secret protocol of the act, divided part of Europe into spheres of influence and the northern border of Lithuania was agreed to be the limit. Initially, the Soviet Union was only getting influence over Latvia and Estonia, however, through negotiations with the Nazi Germany, it ultimately spread its influence on Lithuania, too.
The Process of Adoption of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
After signing the pact, the Soviet Union decided to implement the secret protocol. Leaders of the Baltic countries were called to Moscow to sign so-called mutual aid agreements that the USSR would later use as an excuse for occupation.
Foreign ministries of Baltic countries did not want to sign the document due to fears that it would have violated their neutrality. After the refusal, Molotov addressed an Estonian representative with the following words:
Vyacheslav Molotov: “The situation needs to be cleared immediately. We cannot wait for too long. We advise you to agree to the wishes of the Soviet Union to avoid something worse. Do not force the Soviet Union to use power to achieve its goals… Hope of help coming from foreign countries is only an illusion now.”
Foreign Minister of Lithuania: “Government of Lithuania faced the following choice:
- Sign the agreement that would allow the USSR to place several military bases on the territory of Lithuania and would return Vilnius to Lithuania;
- Not sign the agreement and enter a destructive conflict with the Soviet Union.”
The Soviet Union blamed the Baltic countries of violating these agreements and placed troops in the Baltic region with the aim of intimidation.
After Nazi Germany decided to attack the USSR in 1941, it occupied Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia through Balkans Campaign. Later, the Soviet Union re-occupied the Baltic countries, held by Nazi Germany earlier. Maria Zakharova calls this process the liberation of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia from Nazi Germany, however, in fact, the Soviet Union occupied these territories once again. The occupation lasted until 1991. All this can be assessed as occupation in accordance with international law and the Geneva Convention. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia commented on the recent developments on Twitter.
Tweet of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia
These repeated seizures of territories (after Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by the USSR, in 1941-1944 by Nazi Germany, in 1944-1991 by USSR) are recognized as occupations by the Baltic countries, the European Parliament, European Court of Human Rights, and the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.
A European Parliament Resolution, 1983.
Myth 2: Baltic countries live on subsidies from the European Union, but the aid will end soon.
Reality 2: Baltic countries have quite strong economies and will continue receiving funds from the EU in the future.
First, it is noteworthy that after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Baltic countries changed the economic system quite successfully in comparison with other countries. Until today, these three countries (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) have satisfactory economic conditions. Their GDP per capita (PPP) is quite high as compared to other countries of the world and it continues to grow. Due to the economic boom, these countries introduced a special term – “Baltic Tigers”.
We offer you the GDP per capita (PPP) figures for 2017-2019.
სnterestingly, as of 2019, Russia lags behind all the Baltic countries, as it is on 56th place.
Additionally, all member countries receive funds from the EU, and it is a continuous process. European Union transfers funds to its members for various projects.
2017 Budget Allocation by Project Category
Lavrov’s claim that the European Union will stop the financial aid to the Baltic countries does not correspond to reality, as each EU member contributes to the budget and receives benefits back.
Although the Baltic countries indeed receive funds from the EU as its member states, but it cannot be said that "they live “on the subsidies of the EU”.
Prepared by Irakli Iagorashvili
Regional Network of Myth Detector Lab