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The Baltic States and the Soviet Union

  • Gregory Rutenberg

The development of political relations between the Baltic States and the Soviet Union has passed through two distinctive stages. The first began with the conclusion of treaties of peace signed in 1920 between Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Finland, and the then Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic. By the terms of these treaties Soviet Russia renounced all its previous rights of sovereignty over the territory of the Baltic States and unreservedly recognized their independence.

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1 The treaties of peace, hereinafter cited as the Estonian, Lithuanian, Latvian and Finnish “treaties,” are, in chronological order: (1) the Treaty of Tartu, Feb. 2, 1920 (11 League of Nations Treaty Series, 51); (2) the Treaty of Moscow, July 12, 1920 (3 League of Nations Treaty Series, 122); (3) the Treaty of Riga, Aug. 11, 1920 (2 League of Nations Treaty Series, 213); and (4) the Treaty of Tartu (Dorpat), Oct. 14, 1920 (3 League of Nations Treaty Series, 6).

2 Art. 1 of the Lithuanian, Art. 2 of the Latvian and Estonian, and the preamble of the Finnish treaties.

3 Art. 3 of the Latvian and Estonian treaties.

4 Except as regards Lithuania, whose territory was partially occupied by Polish troops during the peace negotiations.

5 Art. 4 of the Lithuanian and Latvian, and Art. 7 of the Estonian treaties.

6 Art. 5 of the Lithuanian and Estonian treaties, and Arts. 12, 13, 14, 15 of the Finnish treaty. In this connection, Art. 12 is of chief importance. In it, Finland and the Soviet Union declare that they agree in principle to the neutralization of the Gulf of Finland and of the Baltic Sea, and obligate themselves to coöperate for the assurance of this neutralization. It is clear, however, that the neutralization of the Gulf of Finland (which surrounds the territory), and of the Baltic Sea, would carry with it the neutralization of the territory of Finland. This neutralization would be valid with regard to Sweden and Russia, Finland's neighbors, only after their recognition thereof.

7 Art. 2, note 1.

8 Since a formal state of war had never existed between Lithuania and Soviet Russia.

9 These non-aggression pacts, which will hereinafter be cited as the Lithuanian, Finnish, Latvian and Estonian “pacts,” bear the following dates in that order: (1) Pact of Moscow, Sept. 28,1926 (120 League of Nations Treaty Series, 145); (2) Pact of Helsingfors, Jan. 21, 1932 (Soviet Union Review, March, 1932, 58); (3) Pact of Riga, Feb. 5,1932 (Ibid., 59); (4) Pact of Moscow, May 4, 1932 (131 League of Nations Treaty Series, 297).

10 The boundary line, which was laid down by the above-mentioned treaty, was in accordance with the ethnographic, historical and cultural claims of Lithuania, including the Vilna territory and a part of the Grodno territory.

11 This sentence presents, on the whole, nothing new. What is to be understood by “under all circumstances” is not indicated. The expression might be interpreted to mean that the contracting parties would not attack each other, even if the internal political situation should have changed, e.g., if a revolution broke out, or other extraordinary happenings should have occurred.

12 The question of settlement was handled similarly in the German-Russian Treaty of Berlin, hereinafter cited as Treaty of Berlin of April 24, 1926. For various reasons Lithuania, like Germany, would at that time have had to postpone the completion of the convention. Latvia, Estonia, and Finland, failing until 1932 to bring to a successful conclusion the negotiations begun in 1926, finally signed the conciliation convention at the same time that the non-aggression pacts were concluded.

13 That is, an obligation of neutrality valid only under certain conditions or circumstances, in contrast to the unconditional obligation to remain neutral, characteristic of a neutralized state. Compare Jašcenko, International Law, Kaunas, 1931 (in Lithuanian), 160 ff.

14 Lithuania would not even be able to join in a treaty directed against the Soviet Union, whereas no comparable provision was contained in the Treaty of Berlin.

15 So long as the Union of Soviet Republics was not a member of the League of Nations, and therefore had no obligations toward it, Art. 17 of the Covenant alone was involved.

16 Art. 3, paragraph 2; and Art. 4. Of these three indicia of aggression, only the first two appear in the Treaty of Berlin (Arts. 2 and 3). The third element is lacking.

17 League of Nations, Records of First Assembly, Plenary Meetings, 399.

18 Records of the Second Assembly, Plenary Meetings, 453.

19 The first two paragraphs of the Lithuanian note read as follows:'’ The two Governments have examined the basic questions involved in Lithuania's membership in the League of Nations. The Lithuanian Government, in the negotiation of the treaty and in its signature, has been guided by the interpretation that the principle laid down in Article 4 of the treaty, of non-participation in future political agreements of third powers directed against one of the contracting parties, could not stand in the way of the fulfillment of those duties arising for Lithuania out of the Covenant of the League of Nations. The Lithuanian Government ia convinced that the membership of Lithuania in the League of Nations can not constitute an obstacle to the friendly development of relations between Lithuania and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics.“

20 Schücking-Wehberg, Die Satzung des Völkerbundes (1924), p. 668.

21 Ibid. Cf. also, “La Neutralité germano-russe,” Journal de Genève, No. 107, April 26, 1926.

22 Compare the discussion by v. Twardowski in the Wörterbuch des Völkerrechts und der Diplomatic under the heading “WUnarKonflikt,” 527-529, concerning the treaty's incompatibility with the provisions of the Covenant of the League of Nations. This, like the political significance of this treaty, appears to me to be entirely unfounded. First, as regards the apparent incompatibility of the non-aggression pact with the Covenant, the basic thesis of v. Twardowski is unacceptable because his examination of the question rests more on political than international law foundations. His political evaluation of the treaty is untenable, since the coup d'état of Dec. 17,1926 had absolutely nothing to do with the nonaggression pact of Sept. 28, 1926. On the contrary, after the coup of Dec. 17, 1926 in Lithuania, Professor Waldemaras included the neutralization principle in his foreign policy program and upheld it on the basis of the non-aggression pact already signed with the Soviet Union.

23 The much-talked-of “Eastern Locarno,” the creation of which àppeared to be closely bound up with the realization of a large Baltic alliance, was at that time under discussion. It was therefore felt that the non-aggression negotiations should not be carried on by individual states, but by the aDiance as a whole.

24 The publication of the pact occurred on July 5, 1932, in the Latvian official organ, Valdybas Vestnesis, No. 146.

25 This stipulation is not contained in the preamble, but in Art. 1 of the Lithuanian treaty.

26 The activity of the conciliation commission is, according to the pact, to be determined by a convention to be concluded; however, the conciliation convention was, as in the case of Estonia and Finland, signed simultaneously with the pact.

27 Art. 2 of the so-called “alliance.“

28 The pact is published in the official organ of Estonia, 62 Riigi Teataja.

29 However, Art. 2 of the Estonian pact is stated in shorter form.

30 The remaining four articles of the Latvian conciliation convention contain several individual provisions of purely technical significance, e.g., Arts. 2 and 3, regarding a question of quorum of the commission, etc.

31 A protocol annexed to Art. 1 states that the provisions of the convention of June 1, 1932, concerning the measures to be taken for the preservation of the inviolabihty of the boundaries remain in full effect.

32 Art. 1, paragraph 1.

33 Art. 1, paragraph 1.

34 Art. 3, paragraph 2; and Art. 4.

35 Art. 2.

36 Art. 2.

37 Art. 3.

38 The Lithuanian pact was to last for 5 years, while the other pacts provided for only a 3-year period. The period of notification for denouncing the treaties was, however, the same in the four pacts: six months.

39 Automatic renewal in the event of no denunciation extended the Lithuanian-Russian pact only for one year, while in such contingencies the other three pacts were extended for two years.

40 Latvia and Estonia also signed the Kellogg Pact, and therefore might, as a precaution, have had this clause included. Lithuania having already concluded a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, could not, of course, have foreseen in 1926 the Kellogg Pact of 1928.

41 That is, an offensive treaty concluded against the other contracting party. A treaty of defense, as for instance the Latvian-Estonian treaty of alliance and defense of Nov. 1,1923, would not fall into this category.

42 The Estonian pact speaks in general of political agreements, while the Latvian pact also refers to military treaties.

43 Art. 1, paragraph 2.

44 The definition of aggression in the Finnish pact contains a certain amplification of the content of aggression in that aggression may exist even where the manifestations of war have been avoided.

45 There are certain minor variations as to form in the Latvian and Estonian pacts on the one hand, and the Lithuanian and Finnish pacts on the other.

46 Hereinafter cited as the London Convention.

47 This Journal, Vol. 27 (1933), Supp., p. 195.

48 Ibid.

49 Dr. Friede, “Die Ostpakte über die Definition des Angreifers,” Zeitschrift fur Östrecht, Band VII, Heft 8/9, 722.

50 Of the Great Powers, only Italy has pronounced herself as against the aggressor formula of the Politis Report.

51 The neutralization of the Aaland Islands was effected in reality by the Geneva Convention of Oct. 20, 1921.

52 Cf. in this connection my article in Kardas, Nos. 9, 10 (1933, in Lithuanian).

53 Cf. my discussion, “Litauen, Bussland und das Wilnaproblem,” op. cit., 16-22.

54 Possibly by bringing the Scandinavian states (Denmark, Sweden, Norway) into the Baltic confederation also and effecting the neutralization of such a confederation.

55 Cf. in this regard: Prauenstein, Die Zentraleuropäischen Randstaaten mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des baltischen Dreibundproblems (Riga, 1921). Also Rolnik, Die baltischen Staaten Litauen, Lattland und Estland und ihr Verfassungsrecht (Leipzig, 1928).

56 A particularly pessimistic appraisal of the prospects of neutralization of the Baltic states is given by W. Schroeder, Bussland und die Ostsee (Riga, 1927), 255-259.

* Translated from the original German by Professor Malbone W. Graham, of the University of California at Los Angeles, assisted by Dr. Margaret Ball, of Vassar College. The translators incur no responsibility for the views expressed in the article.

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