Advocacy

A Guide to Grassroots Advocacy for Estonia

As members of the 115th Congress settle into their new offices, it’s time for us to start thinking about how to make sure issues that impact Estonian security get those members’ attention.  EANC and the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) are stepping up our work on the Hill in 2017, and our efforts would get a big boost from parallel grassroots support.  There are a few things outlined here that we can already start focusing on.  If you are inclined to contact your Senators and Representative, we appreciate your support and provide information below and on our website to facilitate whatever action you choose to take.

There are a number of ways you can contact your Members of Congress (MoC).  Letters, e-mails and phone calls are the most common.   Several articles have been published recently indicating that phone calls to Congressional offices actually have more impact than written correspondence.  This New York Times article does a good job of explaining why and also how to make your calls as effective as they can be.   Voicing your issues in person – by visiting your MoC’s local office or attending any town hall meetings they host – can also get their attention, especially if you can get a group together.  You can look up your representatives and find links to their websites with local office information at whoismyrepresentative.com.

If you’re unsure of what to say, EANC and JBANC have drafted sample letters for you to use as a guide.  You may use the text in letters, e-mails or as talking points.  While the NYT article states that personal stories stand out more than scripted statements, it’s up to you to do what works best for your situation and comfort level.

One top EANC goal is to increase membership of the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus (SBFC) and the House Baltic Caucus (HBC).   While neither caucus meets formally, by joining, MoCs pledge to support Baltic security and NATO unity.  The purpose of the caucuses is to maintain strong relationships with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania; promote democratic principles and human rights; assist in strengthening free market economies in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania; and work to support legislation bolstering the defense of the Baltic countries.  Look for templates below and coming soon to  EANC’s website for your use in asking your MoCs to join.s-94-screenshot

The first piece of relevant legislation introduced this year is the Countering Russian Hostilities Act of 2017 (S.94).  It was submitted by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and cosponsored by a bipartisan group of nine colleagues. It proposes comprehensive sanctions legislation on Russia for their cyber intrusions, aggression, and destabilizing activities in the U.S. and around the world.  Please see the official press release for more information and inspiration for calling your Senators.

EANC appreciates your local efforts to further causes that support Estonian security and European unity.  We are working in a dynamic environment and action on multiple levels could help us achieve our goals.  If you have any questions about what you can do, please contact our Washington, DC Director, Karin Shuey, at karinshueyeanc@gmail.com.

SAMPLE LETTER FOR SENATE BALTIC FREEDOM CAUCUS:

The Honorable (Full Name)

United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510                                      February xx, 2017

Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. (Last Name):

As your constituent and a member of the Baltic-American community, I ask that you join the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus (SBFC) in order to effectively represent the voices of Baltic-Americans in Congress. Please show your support for the advancement of U.S.-Baltic relations and security in Central and Eastern Europe by joining the SFBC and supporting appropriation of full funding ($3.4 billion) for the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), so that the U.S. and NATO allies are prepared for contingencies that may occur during Russia’s widening aggression against its neighbors.

Baltic-American constituents in your district remain active in promoting democratic principles and human rights and strongly support U.S. policies that bolster the defense of the Baltic countries and strengthen Ukraine in its struggle against Russian aggression. Joining the SFBC will demonstrate your commitment in promoting opportunities to strengthen the economic and political relationships between the U.S. and our NATO allies in Eastern Europe. Members of the bipartisan SBFC, formed in 1997, share an interest in issues related to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and the active transatlantic ties between the United States and these three NATO partners. The goal of the Caucus is to maintain strong relationships with the Baltic countries, promote healthy democracies free from terrorism, and assist these countries in strengthening free market economies.

Since the restoration of their independence from the USSR a quarter century ago, the Baltic countries have been steadfast allies of the United States. Baltic Americans have a special appreciation of democracy and individual freedoms. Our commitment is strengthened because of memories of the brutal Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania which lasted for half a century. The United States’ policy during that period was to condemn that occupation and never to recognize the Soviet annexation. The Baltic-American communities worked very hard to achieve NATO membership for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. We are proud that they have been active participants in strengthening NATO, and that they remain strong adherents of the principles brought forth by this Alliance. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are active and capable contributors to our joint defense and defenders of Western standards and democracy. All three Baltic counties have already been contributing, or have committed to contribute, 2% of their GDP to defense spending.

For more information on the SBFC, please contact Erum Ibrahim Ali from Senator Durbin’s office at 202-224-2152. Thank you for your consideration of these requests.

Sincerely,

Name

Title

Your Address
Your Phone Number

SAMPLE LETTER FOR HOUSE BALTIC CAUCUS:

The Honorable (Full Name)

United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515                                           February xx, 2017

Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. (Last Name):

As your constituent and a member of the Baltic-American community, I ask that you join the House Baltic Caucus (HBC) in order to effectively represent the voices of Baltic-Americans in Congress. Please show your support for the advancement of U.S.-Baltic relations and security in Central and Eastern Europe by joining the HBC and supporting appropriation of full funding ($3.4 billion) for the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), so that the U.S. and NATO allies are prepared for contingencies that may occur during Russia’s widening aggression against its neighbors.

Baltic-American constituents in your district remain active in promoting democratic principles and human rights and strongly support U.S. policies that bolster the defense of the Baltic countries and strengthen Ukraine in its struggle against Russian aggression. Joining the HBC will demonstrate your commitment in promoting opportunities to strengthen the economic and political relationships between the United States of America and our NATO allies in Eastern Europe.

Since the restoration of their independence from the USSR a quarter century ago, the Baltic countries have been steadfast allies of the United States. Baltic Americans have a special appreciation of democracy and individual freedoms. Our commitment is strengthened because of memories of the brutal Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania which lasted for half a century. The United States’ policy during that period was to condemn that occupation and never to recognize the Soviet annexation. The Baltic-American communities worked very hard to achieve NATO membership for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. We are proud that they have been active participants in strengthening NATO, and that they remain strong adherents of the principles brought forth by this Alliance. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are active and capable contributors to our joint defense and defenders of Western standards and democracy. All three Baltic counties have already been contributing, or have committed to contribute, 2% of their GDP to defense spending.

For more information and resources on the HBC, please visit the website: http://housebalticcaucus.webs.com or contact either Jim Goldenstein with Rep. Shimkus (5-5271) or Jeff Lowenstein with Rep. Schiff (5-4176). Thank you for your consideration of these requests.

Sincerely,

Name

Title

Your Address
Your Phone Number

 

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Advocacy

Sorting out the Transition

The last several weeks have certainly been interesting.  Articles have been published almost daily that seem to contradict what was written the day or week before.  It’s difficult to know what information has substance and what is based in speculation.  While I have avoided giving too much credence to many analysis and opinion pieces because I just don’t think the authors have an omniscient crystal ball, a few events have stood out to me as reliable and worthy of note.

First, the 115th Congress has already shown support for the Baltics and European security.  Senators McCain (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC) and Klobachar (D-MN) made a post-Christmas European visit that included Estonia, where they pledged bipartisan commitment to NATO and Baltic defense (see this New York Times article).

A new bipartisan bill was announced on January 10th to impose comprehensive sanctions on Russia for a range of hostile behavior.  The Countering Russian Hostilities Act of 2017 is cosponsored by a group of ten senators and calls out Russian cyber intrusions, continued aggression in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria, and efforts to influence democracy and fuel corruption throughout Europe and Eurasia.  A detailed press release is available on several cosponsors’ websites.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves and other European leaders have sent a clear message to the President-elect in the form of a letter outlining their concerns about the prospect of a grand bargain with Russia, the need to continue sanctions, and Putin’s record of untrustworthiness.  The letter highlights the signatories’ support for the U.S. as staunch allies with common goals and interests.  Please see the Washington Post article and full letter for more information.

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Inside the SFRC hearing room

The Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson provided some insight regarding his views.  He made two important statements regarding the Baltics:   He affirmed his support for NATO deployments in the region as a show of force effective for deterring the Kremlin; and he called NATO’s Article 5 inviolable, pledging U.S. participation in a consensus-backed response to an attack on a member state.  He also recognized the Russian invasion of Crimea as a forceful takeover with no legal claim and agreed that respecting the sovereignty of nations and their borders is a fundamental part of maintaining international order and security.  He seemed clear in his differentiation between his interests and priorities as CEO of Exxon –  from which he stated he has divested himself and has left in the past – versus his responsibilities in serving U.S. national interests and security as the country’s top diplomat.  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) vote will be the next step in Tillerson’s confirmation process.

EANC has been engaged in the transition, mainly as part of the Central and East European Coalition, by drafting and submitting questions for SFRC members to ask Tillerson in order to clarify his positions on issues relevant to the region.  Those questions have been posted on the CEEC website.  EANC will support the bill to counter Russian hostilities, and any other legislation that addresses pertinent European security policy, and facilitate efforts by our members and constituents to do the same.  Our activities in Washington will continue to ensure that the administration and lawmakers are aware of issues important to our Estonian American constituents, keep our constituents informed on news from the White House and the Hill, and support efforts with our regional partners to remain engaged in the policy process.

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