Washington, DC - Secretary of State John Kerry: "On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I join Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Welles Declaration, which condemned the forced annexation of these brave nations by the Soviet Union in 1940.
"We remember this declaration, issued by acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles on July 23, 1940, as an indelible sign of our shared commitment to freedom, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.
"The Welles Declaration was more than a temporary symbolic gesture. From 1940 until the full restoration of Baltic independence half a century later, the flags of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania continued to fly in Washington, just as their peoples continued to believe that the day would come when liberty returned.
"Throughout the long years of Soviet occupation, the commitment of the United States to Baltic freedom never wavered. In the time since, America has watched in admiration as the Baltic nations have built strong democratic institutions and taken their rightful place within the European and Trans-Atlantic communities.
"Now, as we move deeper into the 21st Century, our shared commitment to democratic values, secure borders, and the territorial integrity of sovereign states remains as unshakable and vital as ever.
"On this important anniversary, we celebrate Baltic independence and pay tribute to the many who suffered and sacrificed to ensure it. The American people greet our Baltic friends as NATO Allies, EU members, and partners committed to a shared vision of a Europe peaceful, united, and free."