The Latvian embassy hosted the Baltic ambassadors and Baltic American community representatives for the third quarterly JBANC-Baltic embassies meeting in September 2016. The ambassadors updated us on their countries’ priorities and upcoming events and a productive exchange occurred on many relevant topics.
In addition to the three embassies and the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC), the meeting included representatives from the Estonian American National Council (EANC), the American Latvian Association (ALA), the Lithuanian American Council (LAC) and the World Federation of Free Latvians (WFFL).
Russia’s disinformation campaign was an important subject of discussion. While it has been ongoing since the Baltics gained independence, participants noted that it has become more aggressive and has spread throughout Europe and to the U.S. The problem remains how to address it. Suggestions included more U.S. participation in NATO’s Strategic Communications Center of Excellence in Riga and continuing efforts by the Baltic governments to provide transparent alternative broadcasting options to their populations.
This fall’s presidential elections in all three countries, along with the U.S. elections, were also discussed. While definitive results were not yet available, the election period and its aftermath were recognized as a time of uncertainty when the Kremlin might test transatlantic unity. The Baltic Ambassadors acknowledged that the Warsaw summit confirmed solid support for the region. Since NATO’s forward presence will not be fully in place by the U.S. inauguration, the situation calls for understanding among the allies that this is a soft period. Passage of the U.S. defense budget, which includes European Reassurance Initiative funding, is a high priority. Advocating for permanent presence of U.S. troops on Baltic soil will also become a major focus with the next administration.
The community leaders presented their news and events. EANC’s highlights included the November meeting, awards gala, and public forum; the upcoming publication of Estonians in America; and activities in Washington. JBANC reported on the work they have been doing on the Hill. JBANC requested information on upcoming Congressional delegations to the Baltics to facilitate follow-up meetings with those offices and issuance of invitations to join the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus and House Baltic Caucus.