In 2004 Russia’s Audit Chamber’s report regarding compensation from the three Baltic States for leaving behind property specifically identifies abandoned military bases. This would cover the cost of financing new Russian troop accommodations and pensions for demobilized officers.
Ironically the tens of thousands of retired ex-Soviet officers that were left in Estonia when the Soviet military withdrew in 1994 have been labeled by many as a Russian fifth-column. It follows then that with the proposed compensation demanded from the Baltics the Russian Audit Chamber would see ex-officers’ (seen as a security liability for the countries) pensions being actually financed by the Baltic states.
The Audit Chamber’s compensation plan also includes the Baltic states assuming proportionate repayment obligations on the USSR’s external debt, with the three Baltic countries’ aggregate share totaling $3.06 billion (US).
As is known the Russian Federation, a successor state to the USSR, refuses to recognize the fact of occupation. This is in direct contrast to the positions of most (if not all) democratic states. (The U.S. senate has even passed a resolution urging Russia to admit that an occupation indeed occurred which could lead to improved relations between Moscow and the former Soviet bloc.) In fact the non-recognition of the annexation of the countries by the USSR was a principle adhered to by most of the west during the cold war. But admitting to occupations, Moscow would then be vulnerable to the claims it rejects.
Russia also fears creating a precedent which allows former occupied states to demand damages for ensuing economic harm caused by the Soviet Union. That is why Moscow is adamant in adhering to the notions that the Soviet annexation was legitimate and that Soviet forces liberated the Baltic states from the Nazis. Russia insists that the Soviets “entered” (invaded is the term used by almost all others) the Baltic states in 1940 at the behest of the respective governments. Moscow reiterates that the USSR was not in a state of war (they conveniently do not mention the military blockade of the republics which is tantamount to declaring war) and were not engaged in combat activities on the territories of the three countries. Therefore they did not occupy the republics. Clearly the rejection of compensation is directly intertwined with the gross misrepresentation of historical fact.
Contradicting this position is the European Court of Human Rights, the USA (amongst others) and the European Union. It is pointed out that the demand for compensation by the Baltic states is in compliance with the respective United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power. The same analysts state that the Russian compensation claims have no legal merit.
The issue remains controversial and contentious because it touches on the raw nerves of history. Since there doesn’t seem to be any political, moral or legal leverage that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania can apply to force the dominance of rule of law and justice, no consistent solution to the problem is on the international horizon.
Former Estonian prisoner of conscience Kalju Mätik cuts to the core of the dilemma: The full amount of damage caused by foreign occupation to the Baltic states and their citizens can never be compensated. Yet the involved states are obliged to do the best they can. Just compensation is obligatory both for indemnification for caused injustice and for securing future stability and security. The negligence of this obligation can be used as justification to commit new ones.
Who has the right to compensation for the Soviet occupation of the Baltics? (II)