Studia Historica Septentrionalia 67


Raila Pauanne, The Attitude of the United States towards the occupation of the Baltic States, 19391941

The United States took a passive stance regarding the issue of the Baltic countries from the autumn of 1939 to the summer of 1940. The most important reason for the unresponsiveness of the government of the United States was the desire of the Roosevelt administration to avoid breaking relations with the Soviet Union and further driving the Soviet Union into the arms of Germany. Other important causes were the prevailing isolationism of the United States and many internal political reasons, such as the desire not to endanger the efforts being made toward changing the neutrality laws. In addition, President Roosevelt had to take public opinion into account, particularly as a presidential election was looming. Roosevelt was also aware of his limited capabilities in influencing events in the Baltic countries. Additionally, the good neighbor policy that the United States practiced largely bound the attentions of the Foreign Service in the Western Hemisphere. A formal justification for this passiveness was presented by Foreign Minister Cordell Hull in stating that since the Baltic countries had retained their formal independence, there was no diplomatic action that the United States could have taken.

In the summer of 1940 the United States revealed that it equated Soviet activities in the Baltic countries with conquests made by Germany by freezing the deposits of Baltic countries in the United States and preventing the departure of Baltic ships from American ports. This position was also publicized in a press release on July 23, 1940. The attitude of the United States was based in its general principle according to which recognition would not be granted to territorial changes made by force. In addition, the United States continued to recognize delegates of the Baltic countries who remained in the country.

The United States wanted to avoid the issue of the Baltic becoming an obstacle in improving relations with the Soviet Union. The United States wanted to move decisions on the Baltic issue to a later date and did not take it up in discussions with the Soviet Union on its own initiative. In spite of the pressure created by the Soviet Union and Great Britain, the United States was not willing to make concessions in the issue of the Baltic countries. Concessions were also not made to achieve economic benefits. The United States never recognized the accession of the Baltic countries to the Soviet Union.

Takaisin Studia Historica Septentrionalia 67