Significance of the 1991 Treaty on Fundamentals of Interstate Relations Between Lithuania and Russia
Keywords:fundamentals of interstate relations, treaty, Republic of Lithuania, Russian Federation, aggression, annexation, state status, state continuity, state identity, independence, recognition, security guarantees, NATO, nationality
This article deals with the Treaty on Fundamentals of Interstate Relations between the Republic of Lithuania and the Russian Federation, which was signed on 29 July 1991. It higlights the unique circumstances of 1991 that allowed to conclude this Treaty, when both parties had the coinciding interest to support each other against the Soviet leadership. These circumstances predetermined the unique content of the Treaty on Fundamentals of Interstate Relations: neither Latvia or Estonia, nor any former Soviet republic has achieved the treaty with Russia, in which the latter recognised the illegality of the 1940 Soviet aggression (including the annexation of Lithuania) as well as the continuity of the Republic of Lithuania and its identity with the State of Lithuania proclaimed by the Act of Independence of 16 February 1918. Therefore, the provision of the preamble of the Treaty, which mentions the illegality of the 1940 Soviet annexation, and Article 1 of the Treaty, according to which the Republic of Lithuania has been recognised under its legal status as defined by the acts on restoration of independence of 11 March 1990, are identified as the fundamental provisions of the Treaty. They also mean that, under the Treaty, Russia has acknowledged that Lithuania is not a state successor to the Soviet Union as well as the fact that Lithuania had been illegally occupied (had never been a legitimate part of the USSR) and liberated itself from the Soviet occupation (rather than seceded from the Soviet Union) in 1990. This precludes Russia from questioning the legality of the Lithuanian statehood and glorifying 1940 Soviet aggression against Lithuania. That is why, the current Russian leadership is tending to conceal the Treaty on Fundamentals of Interstate Relations with Lithuania by not showing the Treaty in the list of international treaties of the Russian Federation, which is administered by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, although the Treaty remains in force and its fundamental Article 1 is of irrevicable nature. One more important provision of the Treaty deserves to be mentioned: under Article 2 Russia has recognised Lithuania‘s freedom to choose security guarantees, including collective defence systems. This provision has proved to be effective in responding to Russia‘s attempts to preclude Lithuania‘ s membership in NATO. To sum it up, the 1991 Lithuanian-Russian Treaty on Fundamentals of Interstate Relations can be assessed as a significant contribution to the strengthening rule of law in international relations. It still preserves huge potential for the development of friendly relations between Lithuania and Russia on the basis of international law, historical truth and justice, the sincere acknowledgment of sovereign equality and mutial respect of parties.