Advocacy

EANC and JBANC Support Regional Partners

Two of EANC’s sister organizations from the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) recently held events in Washington to call attention to Russia’s actions in the region.  The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) sponsored its annual “Ukraine Days” advocacy effort on March 8th.  On April 2nd, the Belarusian communities in Washington, DC – including representatives from the Belarusan-American Association – organized a demonstration near the White House to call for U.S. and European Union action in their nation.  EANC and the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) supported both events.

Belarus protest signs

Protesters at demonstration for Belarus near the White House.

The Ukrainian program included a briefing session with leaders of the Ukrainian-American community from throughout the U.S., followed by visits to both Senate and House members’ offices.  EANC Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey and JBANC Managing Director Karl Altau joined the team of Ukrainians from Virginia and North Carolina to visit offices representing those states.  During the course of the day, they met with staff working for Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Virginia congressman Don Beyer, and North Carolina Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr. The advocates spoke up about pending legislation affecting the region and pushing back against the aggression of the Putin regime. The day ended with a reception in the Capitol, which gave them another opportunity to discuss issues with Members of Congress and staff and with friends from the Ukrainian community and other friends of Ukraine.

The Belarusian demonstration took place a week after peaceful Freedom Day protests in Belarus were met with crackdowns by heavily-equipped riot police and detention of protesters.  JBANC has regularly supported demonstrations by the Belarusian community in Washington and was invited to participate on this occasion.  Ms. Shuey represented EANC and JBANC, presenting remarks on the nations’ shared history of defense of

Me at Belarus demonstration

Ms. Shuey speaking at Belarus demonstration.  (Photo courtesy of Ukrainian National Information Service.)

democracy, human rights and rule of law in the face of aggression by Russia.  She pledged continued support from the Baltic-American community until democracy is firmly established in Belarus.  The demonstration drew over 60 Belarusians, American
s and international supporters, to offer a united voice in appealing for appropriate engagement by the U.S. government, to include the extension of sanctions against Russia.

EANC values very highly its relationships with the other member organizations of the CEEC.  While the Estonian-American community makes up a small percentage of most congressional district populations, teaming up with the communities from our former Soviet Republic and Warsaw Pact neighbors, our voices become much stronger and more likely to get the attention of our lawmakers.  Our ongoing work with the CEEC produces policy statements and press releases, summaries of relevant legislation that we distribute on the Hill, and biannual forums for Congressional staffers and members of the foreign policy community that draw high-level speakers to shine a light on the hottest topics affecting our region.  For more information on the CEEC, please visit www.ceecoalition.us.

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Advocacy

Busy Week for Baltic Foreign Ministers

All three Baltic Ministers of Foreign Affairs were in Washington recently for meetings with the Administration, Congress and think tanks.  Estonian Minister Sven Mikser, along with colleagues Edgar Rinkēvičs from Latvia and Linas Linkevičius from Lithuania, held discussions with numerous officials on U.S.-Baltic relations and reaffirmed the Baltic nations’ strong partnerships with the U.S.

Balt ForMins Hudson

From left:  John P. Walters (Hudson Institute), Minister Linkevicius, Minister Mikser, Minister Rinkevics.  Photo courtesy of the Joint Baltic American National Committee.

Many of the points discussed during the week were summarized at an event on March 28th at the Hudson Institute, which established its relationship with the Baltic nations when it was the first Washington think tank to host the newly-appointed Baltic prime ministers back in 1991.  This event presented the foreign ministers in a panel format to consider the topic of the Baltic States and the Trump Administration and share the results of their meetings so far.

They began their remarks by outlining their conversations with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where U.S. officials reinforced their commitment to NATO and Article 5.  The Baltic leaders noted that they have had good cooperation with administrations of both parties since the 1990s and have no doubt that it will continue.  Both sides agreed that NATO needs to maintain the unambiguous message of deterrence established by the decisions made at the 2016 Warsaw Summit and that the multinational nature of the battalions deployed in the region shows that the Alliance is unified in doing just that.

While the Baltic leaders agreed that they won’t see a military altercation in their region despite the tendency of think tanks to speculate on the topic, several challenges were mentioned that require increased focus.  Hybrid threats, particularly propaganda and information warfare, remain a primary form of aggression from the Kremlin.  The ministers called for continued development of an organized, pragmatic approach and noted that the U.S. is coming to understand that it needs to address this threat.  The eleven nations participating in the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence are targeting propaganda from Russia and ISIS and would welcome more U.S. involvement.

Another key challenge is increasing popular support throughout member nations for Article 5.  There was consensus that Americans and Europeans value rules-based order and that the transatlantic community has benefitted from it.  National leaders need to do a better job of explaining to their citizens the importance of NATO and Article 5 in preserving their democracies and the institutions they rely on.

While in Washington, the ministers also attended the March 22nd meeting of the Ministers of the Global Coalition in the Defeat of ISIS.  They also met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  They finished their week in Brussels at the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers on March 31st.   Video of the Hudson Institute event is available at www.hudson.org/events.

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