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
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.
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
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.