Relationship and Cooperation between Germany and Baltic States in 1920-1940
To make any decisions about the state of co-operation among Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and to avoid premature conclusions on its failure or successes, it is necessary to focus on historical experience of Baltic interaction. Such brief historical overview will help to identify those conditions and circumstances of importance for co-operation in the given area today. Since the 13 th century up till the 16 th century different Baltic territories were under the German rule. The long period of the German presence in the region was interrupted by the aggression of Swedish, Danish, Polish and Russian troops. From the end of the 18 th century the Balts were part of the Russian Empire. Till the beginning of 20 th century the only one of the Baltic states—Lithuania experienced its independent status, by the year 1569 uniting with Poland established Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with large territories covering area from the Baltic to the Black sea. Completely different historical lesson was taught to the Baltic states by turbulence in the international system in the 20 th century. As an outcome of the end of the World War I was independence of Estonia (February 24 th, 1918), Latvia (November 18 th) and Lithuania (February 16 th).
In the end of the World War I it was relatively easy to identify their common interests because they were based on security and defence concerns. Within the inter-war period, there were three basic ideas of Balticunity. These proposals revealed the periods of development of baltic co-operation at that time. The first idea which was put forward for consideration was that of the Entante Cordiale (EC). In fact, it was nothing more than the launching of the so-called ‘cordone sanitare’ based on co-operation among the states geographically located between Germany and Russia. The Latvian diplomats were planning to involve in the implementation processes Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. The difference among political actors became increasingly visible and fundamental as it moved from the North to the South. An obstacle for security co-operation was the permanently growing misunderstandings over territorial disputes, especially between Lithuania and Poland with respect to Vilnius (which led to political confrontation). Finland, acknowledging the heavy complex of contradictions, moved away from the idea of Entente Cordiale. Attempts of the states to establish a security region was overlapped by each state’s national security concerns, despite the clear realisation that these concerns could not be solved individually.
The Baltic states were left alone in a position of new political exploration. It was rather evident that there was no interest from the Scandinavian countries in security co-operation at that time, or from other European states for that matter. Therefore, in the beginning of the 1920’s, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania started to elaborate on the establishment of the Baltic Union. Their starting point was a geopolitical location but, unfortunately, the national interests prevailed and the Baltic diplomats were not able to reach any agreements in this respect. After several years of searching for the best solutions, Estonia and Latvia signed an agreement on 1 November 1923, which laid the background for further co-operation in political and security affairs. Lithuania also expressed its willingness to join the agreement but ongoing disputes with Poland made this process slow and later impossible. The relations between Latvia and Lithuania, and Estonia and Lithuania, started to worsen. Meanwhile, Lithuania withdrew itself from the Baltic Union’s project. The inter-state relations in Europe and political behaviour of big powers in Europe forced the Baltic states to set up an alliance despite the failure of the first attempt. Germany was transforming into a fascist regime, Poland moved closer to Germany, and the Soviet Union posed threats. Lithuanian diplomacy with respect to Poland collapsed, putting Lithuania in an isolationist position the only way out of which was to join the treaty signed by Estonia and Latvia in 1923. In May 1934, Lithuania officially stated this fact. On September 12, 1934 in Geneva, all three Baltic countries signed the agreement “On Understanding and Co-operation”.
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