Black Ribbon Day Commemoration at Victims of Communism Memorial

EANC joined JBANC on August 23rd for their 10th commemoration of Black Ribbon Day at the Victims of Communism (VoC) Memorial.  Over 40 people attended, including representatives from five embassies – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Hungary – along with VoC staff and others who gathered to remember the consequences of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939.  The three Baltic embassies laid wreaths at the memorial and their representatives made remarks.  It was the first official event for the newly appointed Latvian ambassador to the U.S., Mr. Andris Teikmanis.

The event was a solemn reminder of how the so-called Treaty of Non-aggression secretly negated the borders of sovereign nations, leading

Three at BRD

EANC was represented by (from right):  President Marju Rink-Abel; Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey; and board member Maia Linask.  Photo courtesy of JBANC.

to World War II and the death, deportation, or displacement of hundreds of thousands.  Parallels were drawn between this period in history and current events in Georgia and Ukraine.  Speakers and audience members speculated that if more people remembered Soviet Russia’s 1939 invasions of the Baltics and their aftermath, there might be broader support for Ukraine, more substantial penalties against Russia for its incursions, and more concern over rhetoric from both sides of the Atlantic regarding the status of NATO and Baltic security.

The continuing tradition of commemorating Black Ribbon Day remains a top JBANC priority.  They have been working over the last few years to have it designated a day of public observance by Congress and presidential proclamation.  In the new administration, EANC will join JBANC’s efforts to establish official recognition of this most significant day in European history.


EANC Meets with State Department

Estonian American National Council representatives joined Baltic colleagues for a briefing from the State Department’s Baltic team on Thursday, July 28th.  The Director of Nordic and Baltic Affairs, Nathaniel Dean, and Baltic desk officers Anna Martz (Estonia), James Lovell (Latvia) and Carol Werner (Lithuania), shared their insights on policy and current and upcoming events focused on U.S.-Baltic cooperation.

JBANC State meeting July 2016

EANC, JBANC and State Department representatives from left:  Karl Altau, Krista Viksnins, Tomas Sadauskas, Karin Shuey, Stan Backaitis, Marju Rink-Abel, Henry Gaidis, Nathaniel Dean, Ausma Tomsevics, Peter Blumberg, Karoline Kelder, Elizabeth Jackson, Raits Eglitis.  Photo courtesy of JBANC.

The main topics discussed were the NATO Summit last month in Warsaw, Vice President Biden’s upcoming visit to Riga, where he will meet with all three Baltic leaders, and Secretary Kerry’s recent reaffirmation of the U.S. commitment to NATO.  The Secretary’s remarks are available on the State Department website (scroll down to the first question).  Mentioned also were the U.S. Brigade Combat Team that will increase U.S. presence in Europe as part of the European Reassurance Initiative.  More information is available at the Defense Department website.  U.S. troops will participate in continuous extensive training with allied forces in the region to develop seamless interoperability and cooperation in multinational operations.  Other topics included the status of the Minsk Agreement sanctions, Baltic cooperation with their non-NATO Nordic neighbors and State’s efforts to counter propaganda and disinformation.

The Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) provided copies of its recent policy statement on the importance of the Baltics in NATO and the American Latvian Association (ALA) presented their statement on election campaign rhetoric.  These statements are available on the JBANC  and ALA websites.  JBANC also issued an invitation to the policy event being planned with Central and East European Coalition colleagues next month.

The meeting ended with positive reassurance that the current administration will maintain its commitment to NATO, and that consensus is strong throughout NATO on its Article V guarantees.  State is addressing the issues of Russia’s multi-layered aggression through various means.  They welcome JBANC’s and its parent organizations’ input on topics of mutual interest and look forward to another meeting later in the year.