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Background information on the 65th anniversary of the United States Non-recognition Policy

On July 23, 2005 will pass 65 years since the US Acting Secretary of State Sumner Wells made a statement in which he took a firm stand against the annexation and incorporation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union. The statement issued by Wells was based on the so-called Stimson Doctrine - a position maintained in the US foreign policy since 1932 that did not recognise territorial changes effected by force.

The statement was published in the Department of State Bulletin, July 27, 1940. Vol. 111: No. 57, page 48, and immediately aroused objections from the Soviet Union, which are reported in July 27, 1940 Memorandum by Sumner Wells In 1991, the Estonian National Archive and the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences published the Estonian translation of the statement and the memorandum in a collection of documents and materials: "From Bases Treaty to Annexation".

The United States nonrecognition policy was based on the Sumner Wells' statement throughout the years of the Cold War till the restoration of independence in the Baltic states. The validity of that principle was affirmed by the US Congress in its June 14, 2000 resolution (see also:
See also a brief history of nonrecognition policy compiled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia -

Sumner Wells (1892-1961) as a diplomat was a specialist in Latin American affairs who while being the US Ambassador to Cuba in 1933 - 1934 played an important role at the time of the change of power in that island state. Being Undersecretary of State in 1937-1943 and a friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's family, he was an adviser to the head of state in foreign policy issues. Wells took an active part in shaping the vision of the post-war world order, and later his ideas played an important role in the creation of the UN. Historians have expressed an opinion that after the resignation of Wells from the Roosevelt's Administration, the president's foreign policy became more pragmatic, which found its manifestation in concessions to Stalin - "the attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability" (a quote from the speech made by President George W. Bush on May 7, 2005 in Riga).
Read about the foreign policy activities of Sumner Wells at:

Statement of the US Acting Secretary of State
July 23, 1940

During these past few days the devious processes whereunder the political independence and territorial integrity of the three small Baltic republics - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania- were to be deliberately annihilated by one of their more powerful neighbors, have been rapidly drawing to their conclusion.

From the day when the peoples of these republics first gained their independence and democratic form of government the people of the United States have watched their admirable progress in self-government with deep and sympathetic interest. The policy of this Government is universally known. The people of the United States are opposed to predatory activities no matter whether they are carried on by the use of force or by the threat of force. They are likewise opposed to any form of intervention on the part of one state, however powerful, in the domestic concerns of any other sovereign state, however weak.

These principles constitute the very foundations upon which the existing relationship between the 21 sovereign republics of the New World rests. The United States will continue to stand by these principles, because of the conviction of the American people that unless the doctrine in which these principles are inherent once again governs the relations between nations, the rule of reason, of justice, and of law - in other words, the basis of modern civilization itself-cannot be preserved.

See the original text in English at:

Memorandum of the US Acting Secretary of State
July 27, 1940

This morning the Soviet Ambassador [Konstantin Umanski] visited me at my request. [- - -]

Then the Ambassador said that he would like to step out from his official role for a couple of minutes and talk off the record with me. I answered that it would please me. Then he claimed that the statement made by me three days ago on the Soviet action against the three Baltic republics had aggravated the feelings towards the United States in Soviet Russia. That statement had been considered by his Government as extremely insulting and twisting the facts. The Ambassador went on that the Soviet action should have been applauded by the United States of America as it had eliminated the buds of "fascism" in the three Baltic republics and had given the suffering people of these countries a possibility to get shelter and protection from the Soviet government and as a result they could get to know the advantages of a liberal and social government.

I said that my statement expressed the US government's official viewpoint and that I could not discuss that issue with the Ambassador. I said that the policy of the United states was known all over the world as policy of opposing the use of force and domination against free and independent people. As long as that US Administration lasted, it would never fail to protest against such acts of aggression.

The Ambassador interrupted me saying that it seemed to him that I was putting the voluntary submission of the Baltic nations to Russian dominion and the German military invasion and occupation of West European small states on the same level.

I said that in the statement the Ambassador was referring I had expressed very clearly that we did not see any principal difference between those two events. I went on saying that there was no sense to continue the discussion on that issue, and it would be better for the Ambassador and for me if we took that question as a question where our opinions differ."

Public Relations Unit of the Office of the President
Kadriorg, July 22, 2005

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