National Security

Washington to Putin: Don’t ‘Rewrite History’

Pompeo joins Baltic states to condemn Putin’s pro-Soviet remarks

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The United States—joined by Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia—issued a statement condemning Russian president Vladimir Putin's attempt to "rewrite history" by asserting that the Soviet takeover of the Baltic states was consensual, Reuters reported Thursday.

"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," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote in collaboration with the three Baltic states' foreign ministers.

Commemorating the 80th anniversary of American condemnation of Soviet aggression in the Baltics, the statement reaffirms Washington's commitment to the sovereignty of its NATO allies by standing against Moscow.

Last month, Putin published an article in the National Interest that claimed the annexation of the Baltics during the Second World War "was implemented on a contractual basis, with the consent of the elected authorities."

"This was in line with international and state law of that time," Putin added.

Putin borrowed from the same Soviet rhetorical and legal playbook in 2014 when Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea. Though the move was condemned as a violation of international law by the United Nations, Putin argued in a 2014 speech that the annexation was a "matter for Russia's own political decision, and any decision here can be based only on the people's will, because the people is the ultimate source of all authority." 

Some analysts believe Putin's ambitions for annexing former Soviet territories go beyond Ukraine—the Kremlin has already taken some actions toward threatening Baltic sovereignty. Using a television, radio, and internet propaganda machine, Russia frequently attacks Baltic leaders and questions the states' ability to participate effectively in multilateral institutions, thereby undermining their sovereignty. "It's a constant negative, undermining approach," said then-U.S. ambassador to Lithuania Deborah McCarthy in 2016. Russia denies any such efforts.