Mr. Trump has stated he would like to meet with the leader of Russia. As part of our post-tax season vacation this year, we spent nine days visiting the Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. We highly recommend you visit these great emerging democracies, but more importantly President Trump should visit them on his way to Russia to reinforce our support for their freedom.
It just worked out to visit them this year, but it was glorious to be there during the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the three countries as independent states coming from the aftermath of World War I. Their independence lasted only a short period as they were trampled on by the Soviet Union and Germany, finally ending in the hands of the Soviets. With the downfall of the Evil Empire, the states reestablished themselves as independent countries.
They joined the European Union in 2004 and hooked up as part of NATO. Our guide in Latvia told us they have been occupied many times over the years with the EU being the last. The EU brought their currency, but not their wages. This is part of the reason these countries’ populations are shrinking. Because of the free movement throughout the EU, the workers from the three countries can freely migrate to other countries like Germany and France and take their skills with them.
We spent time in the capitals of all three states, Tallinn (Estonia), Riga (Latvia) and Vilnius (Lithuania). We also stopped in Kaunas, a city of over 300,000 people, which is nicknamed “Little Paris.” It is a beautiful city with special meaning for me.
It was the jumping off point for visiting the area where my family had come from -- having been traced back to the area in 1804. My cousin had tracked our family back to Marijampole and Simnas in Lithuania. We searched for Bialosky Boulevard or the Bialosky Civic Center, but our search was in vain. It still was a special experience returning to the country from which one’s relatives decided to set off on a long and difficult journey to create a future in a country half way around the world with an unknown future. Little did they know they were going to provide their descendants with the opportunity to spend their lives in the greatest country this planet has ever known.
We had been in three countries previously that had been part of the Soviet bloc: the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. When you experience these countries two thoughts come to mind:
- What was it like for these people under the decrepit, despotic rule of the Communists?
- While walking around you look at their population as divided. There are the Free Estonians, Free Latvians and Free Lithuanians, and then there are the others. The “Free” ones were either born or raised from a very early age in freedom. They know nothing but modern times and modern culture. When you walk the streets, they look just like young people in any major city in the United States or Western Europe. Then you look at the people in their 50s or 60s and wonder what they are thinking. How fast their world is moving. The shops full of choices they never had. The markets with food they lived many years without. The freedom to move or work where they want.
The three Baltic states are bursting with freedom. They are very similar, but each a little different. They each excel at certain things. They need to be encouraged and supported. They need to know the United States will never let them fall back into the grasp of the Russian Bear.
That is why Mr. Trump needs to visit these countries. They are little countries. Different from the ones about which Mr. Trump made his now-famous statement. These are blossoming with the hallmarks of freedom. Yes, we need to have positive relations with our historical friends like France and England and Germany, but these countries need to know we have their backs. It seemed the last administration had deserted them. Trump talks about freedom and free markets. What better way to show the world than by visiting these emerging nations and saying to them, 'you are our friends and we are here for you.'
Mr. Trump visit the Baltics. Maybe even talk about the missile defense system. Show the world we stand with people who stand up for their own freedom.