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Documents from the Vilnius Democracy Forum

The Vilnius Democracy Forum, convened from September 14-15, 2015 in Vilnius, Lithuania, brought together American and European officials, policy experts, and intellectuals to explore challenges to peace and security, freedom, and democracy stemming from Russia’s violation of international law through its annexation of Crimea, mounting political pressure against its neighbours, and subversion of global financial networks.

Hudson Institute was proud to sponsor this event along with the Eastern Europe Studies Center of Vilnius and the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University, as well as co-organizers the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

In closing, the organizers of the forum presented the Vilnius Declaration, advancing fundamental principles to be observed by the United States and its democratic allies in developing proactive policies in response to continued Russian aggression.

The Vilnius Declaration
Vilnius, Lithuania, September 2015

The Vilnius Democracy Forum is conceived to reaffirm and reinvigorate the transatlantic commitment of peoples and governments to freedom, democracy, human rights, rule of law, and the principles of sovereignty and inviolability of international borders. We support reaffirmation of obligations made under international law to oppose the use of force and threat of use of force, to reject intervention in internal affairs, and to respect human rights.

Today, these common values are under threat. The current regime in Moscow has illegally annexed territory of a sovereign state, is undermining the stability of neighboring states, stifling the work of human rights organizations, and making political prisoners of activists promoting democracy and good governance.

In this declaration we call upon individual citizens, civil society, and governments to manifest their steadfast commitment to:

Confirm the desire of states to build and sustain democratic systems based on the rule of law, thriving civil society, and free elections. Support for transitional democracies should be a cornerstone of these efforts.

Safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states by countering conventional and asymmetric warfare while promoting peace, non-use of force, and respect for international borders.

Reaffirm the defense and security commitments of NATO member-states and refuse recognition of territorial claims made in violation of international law.

Promote vibrant civil societies, respect for human rights, and freedom of the press, encouraging honest journalism to demand accountability from corrupt governments and counter the weight of state-sponsored propaganda. It is critical that we fund and implement information practices based on sound and continual repetition of facts, documentation, and reasserting core ideals and values.

Strengthen resistance to kleptocracy, corruption, and criminality by exposing illicit assets, imposing sanctions on corrupt officials, and cutting their access to Western financial centers and societies. Kleptocracies present a real and present danger to Western security.

Reinforce the political resilience of transatlantic partner states and ensure their sovereign freedom of choice in regard to international agreements, including aspirations to join the European Union and NATO. We should bolster activities aimed at strengthening independence, security, and resilience of states in all respective fields.

Statement in Memory of Russian Civil Activists
Vilnius, Lithuania, September 2015

In concluding the Vilnius Democracy Forum of 2015, the organizers wish to acknowledge the brave work of Russian activists fighting for democracy, human rights, rule of law, and freedom. The situation in Russia is worrying, but we are given great hope for the revival of the spirit of democracy by the efforts of these noble citizens.

We should particularly honor the memory of the late Yuri Afanasiev, Boris Nemtsov, Anna Politkovskaya, and the many advocates for such august principles, whose dreams and values will live on long beyond the passing of their champions.

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