Shortly after Latvia's modern statehood was established on November 18, 1918, the United States Senate passed a resolution supporting the secession of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from Russia. Over the next few years, the United States Government steadily increased its diplomatic presence in Latvia, culminating in the official recognition of Latvia on July 28, 1922. During the years leading up to World War II, economic, trade and cultural relations between Latvia and the U.S. flourished, and the two countries consolidated their diplomatic relations, signing several bilateral agreements.
In response to the Soviet Union’s illegal occupation of the three Baltic countries in June 1940, U.S. Acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles issued a strongly worded declaration on July 23, 1940, which set the course of Baltic-U.S. relations for the next five decades – namely, the United States’ steadfast refusal to recognize the Soviet annexation of the Baltic countries.
The United States-based diplomatic representatives of the Baltic countries continued to enjoy full diplomatic recognition by the United States until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, at which point the U.S. officially recognized the governments of the again independent Baltic countries. Notably, the Legation of Latvia in Washington was the only Latvian foreign mission that functioned continually throughout the years of Soviet occupation, thereby reminding the international community of the Latvian Government’s continued de iure or legal existence.
As Latvia’s pro-independence movement gained momentum in the late 1980s, the United States Department of State cooperated closely with Latvia’s diplomatic representatives in Washington, leading to the first unofficial contacts between Latvia’s transitional government and the United States in 1990. Latvia formally regained its independence in August 1991, and the Latvian and United States. Governments reestablished active diplomatic relations on September 5, 1991.
Since the formal restoration of Latvian-United States relations, the two countries have continued to consolidate their political, economic, trade and cultural relations, building on the foundations laid during the 1920s and preserved throughout the Cold War years. The process of NATO enlargement that led to Latvia’s accession to NATO in 2004 has brought the two countries even closer together by adding a new dimension to Latvian-United States relations.
On April 3, 2018, the Presidents of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuanian met with the United States President at the White House for a summit and for the marking of the Centennial of all three Baltic countries.