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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Unified by Yalta's Divisions

For 60 years the word "Yalta" has meant betrayal and abandonment. The diplomatic accord reached between Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States in that sleepy Black Sea resort relegated millions of people to a ruthless tyranny. As U.S. President George W. Bush said last week in Latvia: "The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable." Thankfully, the division of Europe created at Yalta, and the Iron Curtain that marked its boundary, are ghosts in our past. The generation of 1989 succeeded in the streets of Gdansk, Prague and Riga, and much of the territory Yalta allotted to a dictator is now part of the community of democratic nations.

Now it is our turn to contribute to the completion of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace. After recent discussions with presidents Traian Basescu of Romania and Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, I believe that it is time for a new Yalta Conference, a voluntary association of new European democracies with three central goals.

First, we must work together to support the consolidation of democracy in our own countries. Georgia regained its freedom in the Rose Revolution only 18 months ago. Though we have made great strides, much remains to be done in building a lasting democracy. Two significant portions of our territory, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, remain untouched by the freedom the rest of Georgia enjoys. Ukraine's Orange Revolution succeeded only five months ago. My friend Viktor Yushchenko faces real challenges in rebuilding his country's economy and in ending the corruption and criminality that are the legacy of decades of repression and misrule.

Second, we must extend the reach of liberty in the Black Sea region and throughout wider Europe. Moldova, like Georgia, faces a separatist region that maintains itself with cast-off Soviet weaponry and the profits from an illicit economy based on trafficking in weapons, drugs and women. In Belarus, 10 million people remain in a more regimented captivity. The regime of Alexander Lukashenko rules by fear, yet fears its own people. The new Yalta Conference will press for liberty in Belarus through increased travel restrictions on government officials, expanded financial and material support to the opposition, and enhanced training for civic society in the methods of peaceful protest.

Third, we seek to expand the frontiers of freedom far beyond the Black Sea. Our message to the oppressors and their subjects is unequivocal: Free peoples cannot rest while tyranny thrives. Just as we benefit from the blessings of liberty, we have a duty to those who remain beyond its reach. In Zimbabwe, Cuba, Burma and elsewhere, millions live under cruel tyrants. Too many governments and international organizations appear willing to sacrifice freedom for what they mistakenly believe will be stability. We know that only the consent of the governed brings stability. And we know that if the world's democracies make liberty the priority of their policy, the days of the dictators are numbered.

Those on the wrong side of history in Tbilisi, Kiev and Bishkek did not see democratic change coming. Invariably they saw peaceful, popular protests as a "conspiracy" driven by mysterious forces. But the only mystery is why corrupt and despotic leaders thought they could retain power forever in defiance of their own people's will.

Historically, the Black Sea has stood at the confluence of the Russian, Ottoman and Persian empires. Now the Black Sea is a frontier of freedom with vibrant new democracies. The values that drove our peaceful revolutions -- accountable government, open society, the rule of law -- are not exclusively European values; they are universal.

It is time to return to Yalta. This time we will not engage in a secret diplomacy in which our values are compromised and innocent peoples are enslaved. In this new association of democracies, our diplomacy will be open and our focus will be the possibilities of our future.

Mikheil Saakashvili, president of Georgia, contributed this comment to The Washington Post.




By Vaira Vike-Frieberga

As the president of a country that suffered immensely under Soviet and Nazi rule, I recently faced a dilemma. I had to decide whether to accept an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend a rally in Moscow on Monday. That is the date when Russia traditionally celebrates its military victory over Nazi Germany, and this year was particularly significant, as it marked the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

Numerous heads of state and government had already said they would attend the Moscow celebrations. But unlike in France, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands or Austria, the collapse of the Nazi empire did not lead to my country's liberation.

Instead, with the full acquiescence of the Western Allied powers, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were reoccupied and annexed by the Soviet Union, while a dozen other countries in Central and Eastern Europe experienced renewed repression and decades of totalitarian rule as powerless satellite states of the Soviet empire.

Latvia certainly rejoices with the rest of the world at the fall of Hitler's regime. Like numerous other European countries, my country suffered immensely under the German occupation, which lasted in Latvia from 1941 to 1945. During that time, the Germans and their local accomplices carried out the most heinous and large-scale crimes against humanity ever committed on Latvian soil. They murdered about 100,000 of Latvia's inhabitants, including more than 90 percent of the country's prewar Jewish community, as well as tens of thousands of other Jews whom they transported into Latvia from other parts of Europe.

The Nazis also drafted some 115,000 Latvian men into various German military units. Thousands more people were shipped to Germany as forced labor. For a country with a population of less than 2 million, these figures represented a staggering loss.

But Latvia's so-called liberation by Soviet troops in 1944-45 materialized in the form of another calamity, accompanied as it was by the customary rapes, lootings and wanton killings that the Red Army committed in a systematic manner throughout the territories it occupied, and that continued in Latvia well after the end of the war. These were followed by more killings, repression and wave after wave of deportations, the last taking place in 1949.

After the war, Germany made great efforts to atone for the unspeakable crimes committed under the Nazi regime. This process began with an honest evaluation of the country's Nazi-era history and continued with Germany's unequivocal renunciation of its totalitarian past. Russia would gain immensely by acting in a similar manner and by expressing its genuine regret for the crimes of the Soviet regime. Until Russia does so, it will continue to be haunted by the ghosts of its past, and its relations with its neighbors will remain uneasy at best.

In the end, though, I accepted Putin's invitation, because I believe that the Allied victory over Nazi Germany should be seen as a victory of democratic values over totalitarianism and tyranny. These values form the very basis of our common social contract and lie at the foundations of our civil societies. We, the democratic nations of the world, value respect for human life and dignity. We value compassion for the suffering of others, tolerance of differences, and freedom of choice and action, so long as it does not result in harm to anybody else. We value the rule of law as a basis for justice.

For decades after the war, Europe's former captive nations, including Latvia and Russia, were robbed of the opportunity to prosper in the framework of these values. And it is on these core values that the future of our long-term partnership with Russia will depend. That is why all democratic nations must urge Russia to condemn the crimes committed during the Soviet era in the name of communism. Russia must face up and come to honest terms with its history, just as Germany did after the end of World War II, and just as my own country is doing today.

Vaira Vike-Freiberga, president of Latvia, contributed this comment to The Washington Post.