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November 27, 2006
A Little Muscovite Salt In Old Wounds

Russia has released files from its Soviet era that purport to show that the West agreed to have Moscow to occupy the Baltics as a proper method of de-Nazification, a move Latvia decried as a method of undermining NATO unity ahead of its summit. According to the war-era memos, the Allies allowed the Baltics to become vassal states in the interests of stabilization:

Latvia said on Friday Moscow's release of documents stating the United States and Britain gave tacit approval to Soviet occupation of the Baltics was an attempt to sour NATO relations ahead of next week's summit.

Russia's foreign intelligence service SVR this week released declassified files and said in a statement the West regarded the removal of pro-German influences from the Baltics and occupation by Soviet forces "a necessary and timely step." ...

The subject of the Soviet occupation of the Baltics, in 1940 and resumed again in 1944 after the Germans were driven out, is an emotionally-charged one in the region.

Never let it be said that Vladimir Putin passed up an attempt to appear heavy-handed and hypocritical. The Russians do not care much for the idea of NATO expansion, and clearly the West had that in mind when it scheduled its first-ever summit on former Soviet-controlled territory. Latvia has welcomed its NATO partners and relish their freedom and independence, and recognize this as a typical dog-in-the-manger ploy by Putin.

However, his attempt to put a damper on NATO's summit only underscores the continuing relevance of the alliance in Europe. Putin has gradually attempted to reconstitute Russia as a regional threat, if not a global power, and the events of the past week clearly show that he has succeeded in some measure. The assassination of Alexander Litvinenko with polonium-210, the latest in a series of suspicious deaths of Putin's critics, demonstrates the ruthlessness of Putin's regime. The worst elements of personal power from the Soviet days are making a comeback under Putin.

Under these circumstances, NATO becomes more necessary than it has been since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Europe and the West need to remain vigilant against a return of Stalinism in Moscow, and the poisonings of Litvinenko and Viktor Yushchenko as well as the mysterious deaths of other dissenters show that as a real possibility. Freedom made significant gains in eastern Europe and central Asia over the last fifteen years, and NATO has to ensure that those gains do not suffer a rollback.

The Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia know that better than anyone else at the NATO summit. All three have rejected this threadbare attempt at wedge-driving by Putin on the eve of the meeting, knowing that their own freedom relies on the strength of the alliance. They can stand a little Muscovite salt in old wounds as long as they feel assured that it constitutes the entirety of what Putin can do to them.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 27, 2006 6:12 AM

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