(Washington, D.C.) “We recall the August day in 1989 when hundreds of thousands of people linked hands from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius, forming a human chain as strong as the values for which it stood. Today that Baltic chain extends across the Atlantic Ocean. America’s hands and hearts and hopes are joined as one with yours,” said President Clinton during the signing ceremony of the Charter of Partnership among the United States and the Baltic countries. The emotional ceremony took place in the East Room of the White House on January 16, 1998. President Clinton closed his remarks by stating that “working together we can build a new Europe of democracy, prosperity and peace, where security is the province of every nation.”
President Ulmanis of Latvia, President Brazauskas of Lithuania, and President Meri of Estonia also addressed the distinguished guests before signing the Charter. President Meri’s statement spoke to the deeply-felt aspirations of all Central and Eastern Europeans when he said, “we believe that the question of Baltic membership in NATO will become the real test of post-Madrid security thinking — that is, that countries shall be able to choose their security arrangement regardless of geography.”
Following the signing ceremony, Vice President Al Gore hosted a reception at the Blair House. He reiterated the theme of ever closer relations between the United States and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, National Security Advisor Samuel R. Berger, Senator Bob Dole, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) and members of the diplomatic corps, including Russian Ambassador Yuli M. Vorontsov and Hungarian Ambassador Gyorgy Banlaki were among the attendees along with representatives of Baltic American organizations. Ambassador Vorontsov reportedly congratulated Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs which some interpreted as recognition of the Charter by Russia.
Frank Koszorus, Jr., who represented the Coalition at the White House, remarked that “the Charter is the latest milestone in the recognition by the United States that its security interests are inextricably linked with the welfare of Europe. It gives us hope that all the building blocks of stability and democracy in Central and Eastern Europe, ranging from NATO enlargement to granting Western-style minority rights to the Hungarian minorities of the region, will continue to be promoted by the leadership only America can provide.”