The U.S. and nine Eastern and Central European countries on Thursday issued a joint statement denouncing Russia’s effort to “falsify history.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and representatives of the nine countries, known as the Bucharest Nine due to their common alignment with NATO, issued the statement on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII.
In addition to Secretary Pompeo, the statement was signed by the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary.
The statement was issued as a way “to pay tribute to the victims and to all soldiers who fought to defeat Nazi Germany and put an end to the Holocaust.” but cautioned that it “did not bring freedom to all of Europe.”
“The central and eastern part of the continent remained under the rule of communist regimes for almost 50 years. The Baltic States were illegally occupied and annexed and the iron grip over the other captive nations was enforced by the Soviet Union using overwhelming military force, repression, and ideological control,” the statement reads.
“For many decades, numerous Europeans from the central and eastern part of the continent sacrificed their lives striving for freedom, as millions were deprived of their rights and fundamental freedoms, subjected to torture and forced displacement. Societies behind the Iron Curtain desperately sought a path to democracy and independence.”
“Today, we are working together toward a strong and free Europe, where human rights, democracy and the rule of law prevail. The future should be based on the facts of history and justice for the victims of totalitarian regimes. We are ready for dialogue with all those interested in pursuing these principles. Manipulating the historical events that led to the Second World War and to the division of Europe in the aftermath of the war constitutes a regrettable effort to falsify history.”
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius told Baltic News Service that the statement “seeks to counter propaganda attacks related to World War Two and the distortion of history” by Russia.
The Foreign Minister went on to theorize that in defending the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, with its secret protocols that divided Central Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence, Russia “is probably trying to justify the present-day aggression [and] the redrawing of the map” through the occupation of parts of Georgia and Ukraine
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, also known as the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, signed in August 1939, evolved into the Eastern and Western Block divisions that extended 50 years, until 1989’s Perestroika movement, and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.
In 1985, German President Richard von Weizsäcker commemorated Germany’s Day of Liberation on May 8th. He explained that while it is true that Germans also endured great loss during the war and Germans suffered injustice after the war, Germans should not view themselves as victims, because they were also responsible for the immense suffering of others and for the Holocaust
But while Germans do not have the moral right to call themselves victims, they have the right to call the end of the war “liberation” – because Germany lost the war, and as a result of it gained its liberty. And what matters is not victory, but liberty.
It is this German lesson that is lost in the Kremlin today. What makes Central and Eastern Europe different from Western Europe when it comes to the end of WWII is that Eastern Europeans could not declare May 8, 1945, the day of their liberation.
Earlier on Thursday, the Lithuanian parliament, Seimas, passed a resolution condemning Russia’s historical revisionism, and the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian presidents denounced Moscow’s efforts to minimize Russia’s role in the outbreak of World War II and its attempts to place some of the responsibility of the start of the war on Eastern and Central European countries.
In their joint statement the Baltic leaders warned that the distortion of history posed a threat to the rules-based global order.