Advocacy

Notable Estonians Testify in Congress

Ambassador Eerik Marmei and former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves both recently testified at separate Congressional hearings on Russia.  Marmei spoke before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs on March 7th.  Ilves addressed the House Foreign Affairs Full Committee (HFAC) on March 9th and was scheduled to appear again on March 15th before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.

The Senate Appropriations Committee hearing examined Russian policies and intentions toward specific European countries and was chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).  Witnesses included the Minister of Foreign Affairs from Ukraine and ambassadors from the three Baltic nations, Poland, and Georgia.  Its purpose was to broaden the committee’s understanding of Russia’s actions and their impact in the countries represented.  Ambassador Marmei stressed the importance of continued U.S. support and presence in the Baltic region and of implementing the decisions made at the NATO summits in Wales and Warsaw.  He encouraged members to avoid regionalizing the threat and instead to recognize Russia’s influence campaign as a threat throughout Europe and even reaching to the U.S. and beyond.  He expressed support for maintaining sanctions on Russia as long as the conditions of the Minsk agreement are not met.  He also described Russia’s current cyber and propaganda activities in Estonia and some measures the Estonian government has taken to counteract them.  A replay and written testimony for the hearing are available at www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings.

Ilves Marmei at HFAC

Estonian Ambassador Eerik Marmei and former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at Congressional hearing on Russia

The HFAC hearing, chaired by Representative Edward Royce (R-CA), focused on Russian disinformation efforts to undermine democratic institutions and splinter NATO.  In addition to President Ilves, witnesses included former State Department Assistant Secretary for Political Affairs Lincoln Bloomfield; former U.S. Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Daniel Baer; and Mr. Peter Doran, Executive Vice President of the Center for European Policy Analysis.  Ilves’ testimony included identifying Europe as Russia’s “main battlefield” for influence using policies directed at splitting up the EU and NATO.  He also described the 2007 cyber attack on Estonia as the first time a digital attack had been used as punishment for a nation’s policy.  Full details are available at foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 15th will assess Russia’s and other autocracies’ modus operandi and tool box for undermining democracies throughout the world.  More information is available at www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings.

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