Advocacy

Washington Update – 2018 in Review

Now that 2018 is coming to a close, it seems like a great time to take a look back at some of the year’s highlights of EANC’s activities in Washington.

The year began and ended with a focus on Ukraine.  Last January, we opened the year by covering the announcement that the U.S. government had approved the sale of lethal arms to the Ukrainian government.  A year later, Javelin antitank missiles systems are on the ground providing an effective deterrent against further Russian land force advancement into Ukrainian territory.  As indicated in our latest article, the Kremlin’s attention more recently shifted to naval operations aimed at controlling access to Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov.  EANC continues its calls on the U.S. to actively support the defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty from all forms of attack.

Advocacy was a major priority as EANC helped organize and participated in three events.  More than 80 Baltic Americans from across the U.S. came to Washington in May and conducted meetings with over 50 Congressional offices to discuss support for NATO’s continued presence in the region, implementing sanctions against Russia, combatting disinformation and raising awareness of energy security concerns.  This event was organized jointly with the American Latvian Association (ALA), the Lithuanian American Council (LAC) and the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC).  The same issues were raised at the local level during in-district advocacy events in August and September.  The August event again had a Baltic focus while the September event invited constituents of all 13 ethnic communities represented by the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC).  JBANC, the three Baltic organizations, and CEEC look forward to hosting more of these events in the coming year.

One of EANC’s contributions to Estonia’s centennial celebrations was cooperating with

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The Estonian Embassy in Washington dressed up for centennial celebrations.

JBANC, at the invitation of the Department of State (DoS), to create an exhibit commemorating 100 years of U.S.-Baltic diplomatic relations.  The exhibit consisted of three panels depicting the three main phases in the evolution of relations:  the first period of independence (1918-1940), the Soviet era (1940-1991) and regaining independence and establishing democracy (1991-2018).  The exhibit opened in the DoS Diplomacy Center on May 30th and was on display there for the month of June.  It then traveled to Estonia, where it was shown during August and September in the American Space at Tallinn Technical University, the Estonian National Library and the Parliament (Riigikogu).  It finished its traveling exhibit tour in Latvia and is now on its way back to the U.S.  Stateside showings are likely throughout 2019 and EANC will keep our followers updated on opportunities to see it.

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EANC meeting with Estonian Foreign Affairs Committee members. From left: Committee Member Henn Põlluaas, EANC’s Karin Shuey, EANC President Marju Rink-Abel, Committee Member Maire Aunaste, Committee Chair Marko Mihkelson, Committee Member Barbi Pilvre, Estonian Ambassador to the U.S. Lauri Lepik.  Photo credit: Embassy of Estonia.

EANC covered many visits to Washington by Estonian officials and experts.  The most important of these was of course the summit between President Kaljulaid with her Baltic colleagues and President Trump in April.  In March, Foreign Minister Sven Mikser and Defense Minister Jüri Luik met with their U.S. counterparts.  Members of the Riigikogu’s Foreign Affairs Committee, led by Committee Chair Marko Mihkelson, met with their counterparts in Congress ahead of July’s NATO summit in Brussels.   They also took time to share their views with EANC President Marju Rink-Abel and DC Director Karin Shuey to make sure our messages were in line with Estonia’s priorities.

Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey took EANC’s message on the road several times this year.  She was the keynote speaker at Independence Day festivities at the Los Angeles Estonian House and at the Cleveland Estonian community’s Jaanipäev celebration.  She and EANC President Marju Rink-Abel were on the agenda of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies conference at Stanford University in June as part of a panel discussing the U.S. and Canadian Baltic diaspora’s role in securing Baltic freedom

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EANC Washington Director Karin Shuey speaking at the Estonian section of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.

and security.  Karin also briefed EANC’s recently-elected council on her work at the new council’s first annual meeting in Philadelphia in November.  She is available throughout the year to travel to your community to share information on EANC’s work, so please keep her in mind for the next event in your area.

Individuals were also recognized in our posts.  In August, we said a sad goodbye to a great friend of Estonia, Senator John McCain.  His support for Estonian independence, democracy and membership in NATO was key to the success of all three and was well-remembered in the Estonian media and among Estonian Americans.

In November, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VoC) honored Member of European Parliament Tunne Kelam for his for his dedication to opposing the Soviet occupation of Estonia and calling out human rights violations there during the occupation.  He, along with former President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus, and Member of European Parliament for Latvia Sandra Kalniete, received the VoC’s annual Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, an annual award recognizing notable opponents of communism.

Of course, we also maintained throughout the year our advocacy work and relationships with our colleagues at the Estonian embassy, the State Department, think tanks, non-profits, on the Hill, and with other organizations throughout Washington.

Please visit eancdc.wordpress.com for full reporting on all of these events and more.  EANC looks forward to another year of keeping Estonia on Washington’s radar and keeping Estonian Americans informed on what’s happening in DC and how you can help ensure the U.S. and Estonia maintain a strong relationship.

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Advocacy

Estonia and EANC Support Ukraine

In the wake of Putin’s recent aggressive action against the Ukrainian navy in the Sea of Azov, there has been an outpouring of support and calls to action from Ukraine’s friends and allies.  EANC and the Estonian government were among the first to speak out.

EANC responded the day after the news broke by drafting and sending letters to the editor to eighteen U.S. newspapers expressing our condemnation of the actions and calling on the U.S. government to  respond.  The letter was submitted again to the Madison, South Dakota Daily Leader by our board member there, Sirje Kiin, as an open letter to her Senator and the paper published it here.  Our Washington, DC Director,

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EANC Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey (center with glasses) supporting protest at Russian embassy.  Photo credit:  Nadiya Shaporynska.

Karin Shuey also attended a protest hosted by the organizations U.S. Ukrainian Activists and United Help Ukraine in front of the Russian embassy that evening.  We continue to coordinate with our Ukrainian colleagues to make their message heard on Capitol Hill and in the Administration.

The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America is EANC’s Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) counterpart representing Americans of Ukrainian descent.  They have requested advocacy support in Congress on the following specific points.  Their full statement is available at this link.

  • The immediate release of all 24 Ukrainian prisoners of war as well as over 70 Ukrainian political prisoners illegally held in Russian captivity;
  • The deployment of naval vessels from NATO member states to Ukrainian and NATO ally ports in the Black Sea;
  • The immediate return of the two unarmed Ukrainian naval artillery vessels, the Nikopol and Berdiansk, and one military tugboat, the Iany Kapu; UCCA FB snip
  • Increasing military assistance to Ukraine by utilizing measures already authorized by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act, which would bolster Ukraine’s naval capabilities, as with the recent transfer of the two excess Island-class cutters from the United States Coast Guard to the Ukrainian military;
  • Strengthening sanctions against the Russian Federation – and specifically sectoral sanctions – including banning Russia from the SWIFT international payments system, and restricting the rights of anonymously-owned “shell” companies to buy property or access the financial system;
  • The announcement of a temporary ban by Ukraine’s allies on the issuance of official and business visas for citizens of the Russian Federation until such time as the captured seamen are returned.

Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and Foreign Minister Sven Mikser quickly condemned the Kremlin’s actions, as reported by ERR News on November 26th.  President Kaljulaid said of the attack, “We have to call things by the right names – this is war in Europe. The Ukrainian people have been at war since 2014, and Crimea remains under occupation” (also reported in ERR News on November 27th).  The Baltic Times praised the Baltic governments for “com[ing] up with the fastest and clearest statements in support of Ukraine.”   They quoted Ukrainian news source eurointegration.com.ua as saying, “The Baltic states were the most sincere and outspoken supporters of Ukraine, calling things their right names regardless of whether truth might insult the Russians.”

The U.S. Senate took quick action by passing bipartisan legislation on November 29th to condemn Russia’s provocative actions in the Kerch Strait against the Ukrainian navy.  The resolution also:

  • calls upon the Government of Russia to immediately release all Ukrainian crew members and vessels and to cease its harassment of Ukrainian and international shipping transiting the Kerch Strait;
  • reaffirms the unwavering support of the people and the Government of the United States for the people of Ukraine and Ukraine’s territorial integrity; and
  • calls upon the President and the entire Administration to implement an all-of-government approach to forcefully express opposition to the Russian Federation’s November 25, 2018, attack on Ukrainian forces at every opportunity.

President Trump cancelled a meeting with Putin planned on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina in response to the attack.

EANC invites Estonian Americans to contact their Senators and Representatives to echo the points outlined above by our Ukrainian colleagues.  If you do make such contact, please inform our Washington, DC director at karinshueyeanc@gmail.com.

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