Sa, 2.12.2023

Wikileaks: Australia abandoned non-recognition looking at Baltic immigrant vote

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Australia's Labor government based its 1974 decision to drop non-recognition of the incorporation of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union on the political preferences of immigrants from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, that is, their choice to vote for parties of the then opposition in any case, US diplomatic cables show.

The Australian government's move was soon censured by the country's Senate and triggered a wave of protests across Australia.

According to documents from 1973-1976 available from the freshly published new Wikileaks database, Australia closely harmonized its position with New Zealand, which said it didn't believe the Baltic nations stood a chance of regaining independence 34 years after annexation by the Soviet Union.

The Aug. 1, 1974 document describes a conversation between a diplomat of the US embassy to Australia and an official of the Australian Foreign Ministry. The Australian official said that the Australian ambassador had been instructed to reply positively, should he be asked whether a planned visit to the Baltic states meant that Australia recognized the Baltic countries as part of the Soviet Union.

"The Labor government has decided to 'tidy up' policy on the Baltic states, according to (Australian diplomat) Cooper, having concluded that most Baltic migrants 'probably vote Liberal' in any case (i.e., for opposition party), and the Labor Party has little to lose electorally from change in policy," reads the document drafted by the US embassy in Canberra.

Other US documents describe the policies of the Lithuanian community in Australia and the Senate. During the Senate ballot, the statement condemning the minister was voted 29 votes in support and 27 against.

The opposition senator who was the author of the resolution then noted that the Labor Party's prime minister Gough Whitlam had confirmed in a letter to the Lithuanian community before earlier elections that he did not recognize the incorporation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia into the Soviet Union, and was even more categorical in his statement less than six months earlier: "We recognize the existence de jure of the states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania."

New Zealand then also changed its stance on the Baltic countries. According to the documents prepared by US diplomats, the country's officials specified "there were no prospects for the Baltics gaining independence, elapse of 34 years since annexation, and lack of benefit to New Zealand of non-recognition policy."

According to the US document, "Soviet ambassador in Wellington has been informed that New Zealand recognizes the incorporation of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union," however, the prime minister did not want any publicity given to the change.

New Zealand last year officially said to Lithuania that it never recognized the annexation and did not consider part of the Soviet Union.

"A review of the ministry's documents did not reveal any information that would testify that New Zealand ever recognized Lithuania as part of the Soviet Union," New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a letter to the Lithuanian diplomatic mission on July 2, 2012.

The Soviet Union annexed the three Baltic nations in 1940. Apart from the Soviet Union's satellites, the incorporation of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union was officially recognized by a small number of democracies. The non-recognition policy ensured continued statehood of the three Baltic countries.