For fifty years, three Embassies-in-exile in Washington, D.C. stood as symbols of the world’s enduring commitment to the freedom and independence of the Baltic republics.  Today, President Obama welcomes to the White House the Presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as fellow NATO allies, free nations and valued friends.

Your journey has been remarkable.  The Baltic nations, once separated from Europe by an Iron Curtain, are irreversibly part of the European mainstream.  Lithuania now holds the European Union presidency.  Latvia will soon join the Eurozone and start talks to become a member of the OECD.   Estonia has become one of the world’s most wired nations and a trailblazer in e-government.  All three economies are among the fastest growing in Europe. 

It is clear that we are living in a very different world.  And the question for my country is not only “what can the United States do for the Baltic peoples?”  It is also “what can we do together for each other and for people everywhere?” 

That starts with our work as part of the most formidable military alliance in history.  I was proud to support your countries’ accession into NATO while serving in the United States Senate.  The security partnership we have built together has surpassed even the high expectations of those who argued on your behalf. 

And our partnership has never been more of a two-way street.  In Afghanistan, Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian, troops have fought alongside Americans as part of an international coalition.  In Ghor province, Lithuania stood up and led a Provincial Reconstruction Team—taking on a big job, and doing it well.  Baltic ports, led by Latvia, have fueled the Northern Distribution Network that supplies Afghanistan.  And even through tough economic times, Estonia remains one of the few NATO countries that invests two percent of its gross domestic product to in defense year after year.

For our part, we take our alliances seriously. The United States does not recognize any country as having a “sphere of influence” in Europe.  Every country has a sovereign right to make its own decisions and choose its own allies.   President Obama and I consider Article 5 of the NATO Treaty to be a solemn obligation for the United States —not just for our time, but for all time.

We are also working to deepen our economic linkages to match the strength of our security alliance.  Major U.S. companies are already investing in the Baltics.   The United States and the European Union are negotiating a major new agreement that will streamline trade and create economic opportunity on both sides of the Atlantic.  Europeans will have greater access to U.S. products, and the Baltic entrepreneurs dreaming up the next Skype will have even greater access to the largest market in the world.  

When it comes to energy, the United States has unique expertise to offer and a strategic and economic stake in your success.  We support your efforts, within the European Union, to diversify your energy supplies and create more transparent energy markets.   As your countries work together with your Nordic neighbors to translate energy innovation into energy independence, we will all benefit. 

Ultimately, ours is a relationship built on common values.  So it is fitting that we are working to help people everywhere win the same rights and freedoms that our people cherish.  You are the success stories.  Other nations look to the example you set and the lessons you learned in the past generation.  And together we are investing in civil society and economic development to help others build a Europe whole, free and at peace and a more democratic Central Asia and Middle East. 

For decades, the moral and physical courage of the Baltic peoples inspired us.  We heard it in the stories of resilience and resistance from behind the Iron Curtain and in the protests that helped bring it down.  We saw it in the immigrants who joined our communities and became Estonian-Americans, Latvian-Americans, and Lithuanian-Americans.  Not for one single day did we let go of the dream of freedom and independence for the Baltic nations. 

We are proud of the path we’ve traveled.  And we are eager to move forward together to build a more secure, prosperous and peaceful world.

As reported, Latvian President Andris Bērziņš will join with Estonian President Tomas Hendrik Ilves and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite during a working visit on August 30 to meet with US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. The focus will be on the development of Transatlantic relations, economic co-operation, and other timely issues.

This will be the first meeting of its type during President Obama’s time in office. The previous Baltic-US summit was held in Rīga in 2005.
The plan is to discuss ways of developing and strengthening Transatlantic relations, in relation to which security policies are among the most important elements. One important element of this is the airspace patrolling which NATO conducts in the Baltic States, as well as joint military exercises.
There are also plans to evaluate the positive experience of the relationship between the Baltic States and the United States, reaching agreement on ways of establishing ever closer developmental co-operation between the two sides, particularly in terms of the EU’s Eastern Partnership programme and of Central Asia. The officials will also exchange views on other important international issues.

Photo: Chancery of the Presidentof Latvia
Joe Biden, 30.08.2013, Foreign Affairs