Today the people of the United States join with our friends in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to honor the 20th Anniversary of the Baltic Way protests against Soviet domination that inspired so many people around the world in 1989. On August 23, 1989, two million Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians formed a human chain that stretched 600 kilometers across the three Baltic Republics, capturing the world’s attention and advancing the cause of freedom. Because of their courage, August 23 -- once infamous as the anniversary of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany that led to the occupation of the Baltics -- now stands as a landmark in the struggle for self-determination.
People across the Baltic Republics will commemorate this day through public events including photo exhibits, film festivals, a letter-writing competition, and a motorcycle tour retracing the route of the human chain, as well as through countless private remembrances. They have many reasons to be proud. The same determination and spirit that fueled the Baltic Way protests have helped the Baltic Republics become champions of human rights and democracy. They are valued members of NATO and the European Union and provide leadership around the world.
On this historic occasion, let me reaffirm the commitment of the United States to strengthen and deepen our partnerships with the people and governments of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.