Poland’s policy of regional cooperation initiatives such as the Three Seas initiative, the Visegrad Group, Baltic cooperation and the recent activation of the Lublin Triangle between Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine is bearing fruit.
Another good example was in evidence in Latvia where the centenary anniversary of Latvia’s peace accord with Russia was commemorated in the presence of foreign ministers from Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Poland.
The hosts displayed the original document signed in Riga. But what was striking, as always in the Baltic States, was the language of responsibility for nation and state — no post-modernism here.
Russia’s aggression in Georgia and Ukraine and its pressure on the Baltic States have had their effect. These are not always positive as the dependence on the West and the European Union means the Baltic States feel they have a lot less room for maneuver than Poland has.
The message which rang out of Latvia’s commemoration was that independence in our region does not come for free and can never assume to be lasting. Latvia’s President Egils Levits said that the authors of the document did not have deep knowledge of international law or diplomacy but had a passion and commitment which lives to this day.
Despite 60 years of occupation, the Latvian state had survived and that the basis for its existence was the document on display.
Poland’s foreign minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, reminded those assembled of Poland’s fight for independence and its victorious campaign against the Red Army in 1920. He said that the lesson is that “history has not ended, geopolitics is still dominant in our region and challenges remain. We have no USSR but we have Putin and Russia. And we have attempts at reinterpreting history which we must combat together.”
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reisalu congratulated Latvia and underlined that “freedom was not granted to our region on a golden platter, we must be ready to defend it all the time. We have to be ready to resist the falsification of history, such as Russian claims that the Baltic States acceded to the USSR voluntarily.”
Minister Reisalu added that for small states that don’t have atomic weapons, their defense lies in international law, especially with regard to refusing to recognize illegal aggression.
The participants at the event underlined the importance of defense spending and pledged not to cut it, even in the time of the pandemic. But all recognized how vital the strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank was for all of them, a policy in which Poland has played a vital part.
How different from the voices we sometimes hear about the need “not to provoke Russia”.
As for the history of the Riga accords signed on Aug. 11 1920, it is interesting to look at what happened to the individual signatories.
The Soviet signatory Adolf Joffe committed suicide in 1927 after Trotsky was exiled. Another Soviet signatory, Jakov Hanecki, was executed in 1937 during one of Stalin’s purges. On the Latvian side, Janis Vesmanis and Peteris Bergis died in Soviet captivity in 1942 and Eduard Kalinis fled the country in 1944 and died later in the United States.