What Latvia Wishes From This War?Dr. Alfreds Bīlmanis, 1944
However, already on November 11, 1918—on Armistice Day—the British Government recognized the Latvian Provisional National Council
The respective articles read as follows:
"TREATY OF PEACE WITH GERMANY
RUSSIA AND RUSSIAN STATES
"Germany acknowledges and agrees to respect as permanent and inalienable the independence of all the territories which were part of the former Russian Empire on August 1, 1914.
"In accordance with the provisions of Article 259 of Part IX (Financial Clauses) and Article 292 of Part X (Economic Clauses) Germany accepts definitely the abrogation of the Brest-Litovsk Treaties and of all other treaties, conventions and agreements entered into by her with the Maximalist Government in Russia. "The Allied and Associated Powers formally reserve the rights of Russia to obtain from Germany restitution and reparation based on principles of the present Treaty.
"Germany undertakes to recognize the full force of all treaties or agreements which may be entered into by the Allied and Asoci-ated Powers with States now existing or coming into existence in future in the whole or part of the former Empire of Russia as it existed on August 1, 1914, and to recognize the frontiers of any such States as determined therein.
"As a guarantee for the execution of the provisions of the present Treaty, by which Germany accepts definitely the abrogation of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, and of all treaties, conventions and agree¬ments, entered into by her with the Maximalist Government in Russia, and in order to ensure the restoration of peace and good government in the Baltic Provinces and Lithuania, all German troops at present in the said territories shall return to within the frontiers of Germany as soon as the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers shall think the moment suitable, having regard to the internal situation of these territories. These troops shall abstain from all requisitions and seizures and from any other coercive measures, with a view to obtaining supplies intended for Germany, and shall in no way interfere with such measures for national defense as may be adopted by the Provisional Governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
"No other German troops shall, pending the evacuation or after the evacuation is complete, be admitted to the said territories."
Article 433 does not recognize or establish Baltic Governments, it takes only cognizance of the existence of the Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian Provisional Governments and the defense organize by these governments. Further, Article 433 prohibits German military formations to interfere with the defense work of these governments.
These three articles also state that Germany would have to recognize any new governments which would arise instead of the defunct Russian government "in the whole or part of the former Empire of Russia" and which would be recognized by the Allies. But from these articles it is quite frankly to be understood that the Allies did not recognize the Maximalist Government as the heir of the Russian Czarist Government, but anticipated some sound government instead.
Regardless of the signing of the Versailles Treaty, Germans continued to intrigue against the Baltic Governments.
Also the Maximalist Government, already then kown as the Bolsheviks, in December 1918 had established on Russian soil similar Maximalist governments for Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The Latvian Bolshevik government became a military ally of the Russian Maximalist Government, started an invasion of Latvia with the help of the Red Army, and on January 3, 1919, occupied Riga. The Latvian Government retreated to Libau in Kurland. War broke out with the Russian Maximalists. War was also being waged against Germany, which took under its protection the troops disguised as "White-Russian" forces of a former Russian officer of reserve, Bermondt, who plotted with German monarchists and appeared from East-Prusia in Latvian Kurland at the head of these troops, but was defeated by the Latvians in November 1919.
At that time Kurland had a direct frontier with East-Prussia. Klaipeda or Memel and Palanga or Polangen were not yet parts of Lithuania. Polangen was by Latvia granted to Lithuania in 1920, principally to provide Lithuania with a port on the Baltic shores. Lithuania took Klajpeda by a coup de main in 1923. Thus, in 1919 Germany had direct territorial connection with Latvian Kurland and supported clandestinely the German-Balts in their endeavors to reestablish their lost domination in Latvia.
Already before the Bermondt adventure the German-Balt "Landeswehr" or territorials reinforced by German regulars, who infiltrated from East Prussia, tried on April 16, 1919, in Libau to establish a Latvian pro-German government, but failed. After the liberation on May 22, 1919, of Riga from the Bolsheviks, the German-Balts tried again to take over all the power in the land by armed force, but were defeated on June 22, 1919, at Cesis or Wenden by joint Estonian-Latvian forces, which simultaneously had to fight the Bolsheviks on the eastern front.
The German-Balts were busy also in Versailles trying to influence the Versailles Conference to establish only temporary Baltic governments as a transition to a centralized Russian non-Maximalist Government. These temporary Baltic Governments were to be the tools for intervention in Soviet Russia. The Baltic Governments naturally refused to participate in these plans, and consequently these plans were dropped.
At the same time the German-Balt nobles promised Admiral Koltchak in Siberia loyal support, thus hoping to regain their privileged position in the Baltic.* They established in Versailles a joint committee with the Russian and Polish big landowners to protect "minority interests" . . . although the
So it happened that during the Versailles Peace Conference, and even after the Versailles Peace Treaty was signed, the Latvians had to fight against both Germany and Soviet Russia. The same happened to the Poles, Lithuanians and Estonians. Eventually, in 1920, the Germans and the Bolsheviks voluntarily signed peace treaties with Latvia on July 15 and August 11 respectively. Also Estonia and Lithuania as well as Finland and Poland came to peace terms with Soviet Russia.
Under the Latvian-U.S.S.R. peace treaty, completed and signed at Riga on August 11, 1920, (and done at Moscow) the U.S.S.R. undertook the voluntary obligation, to recognize without reservation the independence, self-subsistence and sovereignty of the Latvian State, and for ever renounced all sovereign rights over the Latvian people and territory.
Article 2 of Treaty of Peace between Latvia and Russia sounds as follows:
"By virtue of the principle proclaimed by the Federal Socialist Republic of the Russian Soviets, which establishes the right of self-determination of all nations, even to the point of total separation from the States with which they have been incorporated, and in view of the desire expressed by the Latvian people to possess an independent national existence, Russia unreservedly recognizes the independence, self-subsistency and sovereignty of the Latvian State and voluntarily and for ever renounces all sovereign rights over the Latvian people and territory which formerly belonged to Russia under the then existing constitutional law as well as under international treaties, which, in the sense here indicated, shall in the future cease to be valid. The previous status of subjection of Latvia to Russia shall not entail any obligation towards Russia on the part of the Latvian people or territory."**
The Latvian-U.S.S.R. treaty of peace has no connections whatsoever, either direct or indirect, with the Treaty of Versailles—only the right of self-determination of all nations is defined as the eternal basis of the treaty signed for ever.
How in the light of these facts can one insinuate that the Baltic States were artificial creations of Versailles? Besides, the Baltic States even did not participate in the Versailles Conference and did not sign the Versailles Peace Treaty.
Of course, the Allied victory and the military intervention in the war by the United States of America were decisive in the issue of the war.
The principles of self-determination of nations proclaimed on February 11, 1918, in Congress and repeated on July 4, 1918, by President Wilson strengthened the political base of the Baltic peoples, who, however, had already proclaimed their self-determination in November 1917, before President Wilson issued his Statements.***
Of these Wilsonian four principles the most important for the Baltic peoples are:
the second, which prohibits
"bartering with peoples as if they were chattels or pawns in a game, even the great game, now for ever discredited, of the balance of power";
the third and fourth, which demand that
"every territorial settlement involved in this war must be made in the interest and for the benefit of the populations concerned and not as part of any mere adjustment or compromise of claims amongst rival States" and "that all well-defined national aspirations shall be accorded the utmost satisfaction ..."
On July 4, 1918, President Wilson in his speech of the "Four Ends" again stressed that:
"the settlement of every question, whether of territory or sovereignty, of economic arrangement, or of political relationship should be made on the basis of the free acceptance of the settlement by the people immediately concerned, and not upon the basis of the material interest or advantage of any other nation or people which may desire a different settlement for the sake of its own exterior influence or mastery ..."
Acting in the spirit of these principles, the United States Government after two years of local observation granted full unconditional recognition to the Baltic Governments on July 28,1922, and qualified these governments as having been "set up and maintained by an indigenous population."**** Of course, this did not constitute infringement of the principle that no alienation of Russian territory should take place, because that was not Russian territory proper. Since then the U.S.A. has had diplomatic representatives in the Baltic capitals who could freely observe the development of these States. Thus the American Government had real reason to declare again on July 23, 1940, that
"from the day when the peoples of these Republics first gained their independent and democratic form of government the people of the United States have watched their admirable progress in self-government with deep and sympathetic interest."*****
This repeatedly demonstrated positive attitude of the U. S. Govern¬ment towards the independent Baltic States refutes also the insinuation so often repeated by protagonists of power politics that the U.S.A. granted only conditional recognition to the Baltic States, or, as the prominent American publicist W. Lippmann states, that American recognition of the Baltic States was granted with the belief "that it was provisional."****** This belief of Mr. Lippmann is based on the report of the American High Commissioner in the Baltic States Mr. O. Young whereby, in recommending this recognition, he also forwarded his own opinion that "at some time in the future these States may once again become an integral part of Russia."
|Malbone W. Graham, op. cit., p. 427.|
|Recueil des principaux Traites Conclus par la Lettonie avec Lea Pays Etrangers. Vol I, Riga, 1930, p. 5.|
|Encyclopaedia Britannica, V. 9, 1937 ed., p. 566.|
|G. H. Hackworth, Digest of International Law, Washington, 1940: Recognition of New States.|
|Published in the Department of State Bulletin of July 27, 1940.|
|W. Lippmann, United States Foreign Policy, 1943.|
- INTRODUCTION TO THE WORK
- LATVIA WISHES: . . . (illustration)
- BALTIC STATES GEOGRAPHICAL RELATION TO OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES (illustration)
- Neither buffer nor possession
- Prologue to war of independence
- Treaties and principles of independence
- Next A cui bono?!
- Actual and current circumstances
- Soviet intents vs. Baltic rights and future role
- Future security of Europe
- OTHER PUBLICATIONS
"What Latvia Wants From This War?" was published by the Latvian Legation, Washington, D.C. in 1944.
We believe this publication to be a work of the Latvian government and accordingly in the public domain.