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2008 | 43 | 90-116
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THE UNITED STATES, RIBBENTROP-MOLOTOV PACT AND THE FATE OF THE BALTIC REPUBLICS: LITHUANIA, LATVIA AND ESTONIA (1939-1941) (Stany Zjednoczone wobec paktu Ribbentrop-Molotow i losu republik baltyckich: Litwy, Lotwy i Estonii (1939-1941))

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The Baltic republics occupied a rather distant or outright peripheral place in American policy during the interwar period. After the First World War Washington did not immediately recognize their independence, and initially was inclined to refuse to recognize Soviet Russia and thus the division of the Russian empire. Only after 1922, when the line of the non-recognition of new Russian frontiers was abandoned, did it become possible to officially recognize Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and to institute diplomatic agencies. The nomination of president F. D. Roosevelt in 1933 and the establishment of diplomatic relations with Moscow did not comprise a fundamental breakthrough in the treatment of the Baltic states. nonetheless, in its capacity as a buffer zone between Germany and Russia, this region increasingly attracted the attention of the White House (the mission of ambassador J. Davies in 1937 aimed at becoming acquainted with local relations and moods). The first significant signal of looming German-Soviet rivalry along the Baltic was Hitler's annexation of Memel in 1939. owing to the small size of the controversial territory and its slight significance Washington remained rather indifferent, with Secretary of State Hull issuing only an enigmatic declaration. America paid greater attention to observing and analyzing the maneuvers carried out by Moscow, especially from the moment when Litvinov - an adherent of collective security - was replaced by Molotov (1938). The Franco-British-Soviet debates, albeit dominated by demands made by the Kremlin, intent on creating a Soviet protectorate, were received in Washington with hopes for an anti-German alliance, with Roosevelt in favour of not interrupting the negotiations. nonetheless, the American president did not appear to be surprised by news about the signing of the German-Soviet pact. Washington had been receiving information about the talks conducted by Berlin and Moscow and the secret clauses of the pact. Hoping for a rapid dissolution of the new alliance, the Americans decided to avoid decisive steps. When in the autumn of 1939 the Kremlin forced the Baltic republics to set up Soviet military bases and to sign 'mutual assistance' treaties, official American reactions still remained restrained, cautious and extremely balanced, and showed appreciation for Soviet efforts at creating a strategic defensive zone against Germany. The ultimate incorporation of the Baltic countries into the Soviet union forced the Roosevelt administration to express a more concrete reaction (the Welles declaration of 23 July 1940). nevertheless, the subsequent Wellesumansky talks did not bring about any changes in the stands represented by both parties. The Baltic region played a humble part in the presidential campaign of 1940, with only a few politicians, such as former president Hoover, criticizing the stance assumed by Washington. true, the Atlantic charter of august 1940 made clear mention of the right of all nations to regain their independence which they had lost due to force, but after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 its realization became very difficult in view of the territorial demands made by Stalin, now an ally of the Anglo-American powers. The American principle of the non-recognition of territorial changes in wartime was slowly relegated by the principle of postponing all discussions until the end of armed operations.
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  • Hanna Marczewska-Zagdanska, Instytut Historii im. Tadeusza Manteuffla PAN, Rynek Starego Miasta 29/31, 00-272 Warszawa, Poland
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