As we approach the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe on May 8th, the Estonian American National Council (EANC) recently joined with two protests of the Joint Statement by President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Meeting on the Elbe issued by the White House in late April. The Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) and the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) both published statements objecting to the terms of the commemoration and to President Trump’s engagement with the Russian president. EANC is a member of both JBANC and CEEC and helped craft the written protests. The JBANC statement is posted at www.jbanc.org and the CEEC version can be found at ceecoalition.us. Both are also reprinted below.
EANC fully concurs with the points made in both objections. The Trump-Putin statement portrays the meeting of the U.S. and Soviet armies on April 25, 1945 as a symbol of victory over the Nazis and cooperation between the two powers. It fails to recognize the historical context established by the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact that ushered in 50 years of Soviet-led oppression across the Baltic counties and nations of central and eastern Europe. Perhaps more concerning is the statement’s tacit support for the Kremlin’s ongoing historical revisionism and open campaigns to destabilize western democracies.
The JBANC and CEEC objections call for the U.S. to remember the decades of American leadership in the Cold War against the Soviet-led spread of communism and support for the democracies that emerged in 1991. They also caution against becoming complicit in Putin’s malign agenda, which initiated the joint statement by the two presidents. U.S. policy and action should uphold democratic values, not enable efforts to undermine them. EANC will always reinforce historical accuracy while promoting democracy, individual liberty, rule of law, and national security and sovereignty wherever we find an opportunity to do so, and particularly when Estonia and its neighbors are affected.
Washington, DC May 6, 2020
On April 25, 2020, the White House released a Joint Statement by President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Meeting on the Elbe. In honor of the May 8th anniversary of the end of World War II, the CEEC objects to this statement and calls for the United States government to recognize the anniversary’s tragic historical significance as it marked the beginning of 50 years of oppression for the nations of our heritage.
In the statement, both parties highlighted the “historic meeting between American and Soviet troops, who shook hands on the damaged bridge over the Elbe River…herald[ing] the decisive defeat of the Nazi regime.” In addition, the statement conveys “the ‘Spirit of the Elbe’ [as] an example of how our countries can put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause.”
The CEEC is alarmed over the statement’s disregard of the brutal legacy of the Soviet Union, its enabling of the Kremlin’s historical revisionism, and its failure to recognize the Putin regime’s revanchism in Europe. We find the statement to be inconsistent with a committed stance against Moscow’s ongoing antagonism toward the U.S. and its allies.
We recognize that the end of Hitler and Nazism was a historic victory for the U.S., Europe, and the world. We also realize that nations across the globe today must work together to coordinate efforts against pandemics and other threats to the human race. However, this joint statement with Putin on the legacy of WWII fails on a number of fronts.
The statement does not include historical context acknowledging that the Allies’ partnership with the Soviet Union precipitated almost 50 years of Moscow’s subjugation of half of Europe. Under the totalitarian rule of the Soviet Union, Central and Eastern European nations suffered rampant human rights abuses, political and economic corruption, and loss of fundamental freedoms.
Indeed, the statement enables the Kremlin’s dangerous historical revisionism that seeks to validate the Soviet Union and its post-Soviet incarnation as a partner to build “trust” with. We must remember the hegemony that the Soviets wrought in Europe, and how Americans led the West in the Cold War against it for nearly half a century. We must not let the U.S. be complicit in the Putin regime’s false narrative of the Soviet Union’s legacy.
In the context of this legacy, the statement also fails to acknowledge the Putin regime’s calculated foreign policy to undermine U.S. interests and dominate democracies at its borders and around the globe. Putin has called the collapse of the Soviet empire “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” In noting the U.S. and Russia “put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause … to confront the most important challenges of the 21st century,” the statement in fact facilitates the military and political revanchism over Europe that Putin continues to plot.
Today, Putin’s regime continues to antagonize the U.S. and its allies in Europe through a hybrid war of disinformation, election interference, cyber-attacks, and protracted occupation of parts of Ukraine and Georgia. It threatens the peace and stability that American leadership has enabled through decades of investment and partnership after WWII. We cannot afford to “put aside differences” of principle, rule of law, and aggressive actions.
As we mark the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, the CEEC calls for U.S. policy and action that uphold democratic values and the long history of American leadership in protecting them. We urge President Trump to place those values ahead of engaging with a regime that fails to respect the sovereignty of other nations, promotes the corrupt legacy of a failed state, and continues to wage aggression against the U.S. and its allies.
American Hungarian Federation • American Latvian Association in the U.S. • Armenian Assembly of American • Belarusan-American Association • Bulgarian Institute for Research and Analysis • Congress of Romanian Americans • Washington Chapter Czechoslovak National Council of America • Estonian American National Council • Georgian Association in the USA • Hungarian American Coalition • Joint Baltic American National Committee • Lithuanian American Council • Lithuanian American Community • National Federation of American Hungarians • Polish American Congress • Slovak League of America • Ukrainian Congress Committee of America • Ukrainian National Association
ceecoalition.us | c/o Polish American Congress, 1612 K Street NW Suite 1200, Washington, DC 20006 | email@example.com
On April 25, 2020, the White House released a Joint Statement by President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Meeting on the Elbe.
In the statement, both parties highlight the “historic meeting between American and Soviet troops, who shook hands on the damaged bridge over the Elbe River. This event heralded the decisive defeat of the Nazi regime.” In addition, the statement conveys that “the ‘Spirit of the Elbe’ is an example of how our countries can put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause.”
The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) is alarmed 1) over the origins of the statement, which purportedly was at the initiative of the Kremlin, 2) that the statement says nothing to reject the revanchism of the Putin regime, and 3) which is without proper historical context in noting the totalitarianism and terror of the Soviet regime.
While there is no doubt that the end of Hitler and Nazism in 1945 was a tremendous victory, it came at enormous cost, and was only a partial victory.
The end of the Second World War meant freedom for some parts of the world, but for Soviet Russia and Soviet-occupied countries it meant a life under a malevolent totalitarian regime, which didn’t regard freedom and liberty as anything of value. It should be remembered that without the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe the United States would perhaps not have gotten into the deadly global debacle that Hitler and Stalin created.
As rightly noted in the 2019 Resolution by the European Parliament, “on 23 August 1939, the communist Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a Treaty of Non-Aggression, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and its secret protocols, dividing Europe and the territories of independent states between the two totalitarian regimes and grouping them into spheres of interest, which paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War.” On that basis, the Soviet Union in 1940 occupied Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Only half a century later, the Baltic nations regained their freedom once more.
Today, the Putin regime continues its dangerous historical revisionism and continues to undermine and attack democracies at its borders and around the globe. We must remember what the Soviets wrought and that Americans fought back against this for nearly half a century. We must not let ourselves be played into the Putin regime’s narrative of this history.
The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) represents the Estonian American National Council, Inc., the American Latvian Association, Inc., and the Lithuanian American Council, Inc.