Washington saw several events recently that bring to mind the history of the Baltics and other countries with tragic and difficult pasts. The Estonian American National Council was represented by its Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey.
One of EANC’s Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) partners, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), held its annual Ukraine Days on June 12th. Nearly fifty Ukrainian Americans and friends of Ukraine from eleven states held more than fifty meetings with Congressional offices to raise awareness on issues relevant to Ukrainian security and its struggle to regain full sovereignty over its territory. Karin supported the event by joining the team holding meetings with Representatives from Virginia.
The top bill on the UCCA’s priority list was S.482, the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2019 (DASKAA), which contains policy guidelines on Ukraine and Crimea, and on strengthening the NATO alliance; interaction with the European Union; enhancing public diplomacy; cybercrime; election interference; and sanctions against the Russian Federation. Other important bills listed were H.R.3047, which provides military support to Ukraine, and S.1441, which would impose sanctions on firms associated with the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The group also advocated for increased people-to-people exchanges, especially in fields of journalism and government, and combating Russian disinformation and cybersecurity threats.
On June 13th, the CEEC held a corresponding advocacy event centered on Members of Congress from Maryland, Virginia and Michigan, reflecting the home states of the majority of participants. While the group and focus were smaller than the Ukrainian event, productive meetings were held with six Senate offices and two offices in the House of Representatives. Karin led the group visiting Senators from Maryland and Virginia. The talking points were very similar to those listed above, as those issues impact all nations represented in the coalition. Since the group included Baltic and Polish American constituents, they specifically brought up the importance of continued NATO troop presence in the region and European Defense Initiative funding, which has helped NATO nations with infrastructure projects vital to supporting NATO deployments.
A briefing session before the meetings helped prepare participants for their upcoming discussions. The featured speaker, Jakub Janda, Director of the European Values Think Tank, based in Prague, noted that the “U.S. Congress is the leader in punishing Russia” through its current sanctions and related legislation. He suggested placing staffers from CEE countries in Congressional offices and sending U.S. staffers to parliaments in the region as an effective way to foster two-way, first-hand understanding of what is happening in governments on both sides of the Atlantic.
Karin marked the June 14th somber anniversary of the 1941 mass deportations by laying flowers at the Victims of Communism Memorial as part of its foundation’s annual Roll Call of Nations. The VoC Memorial Foundation has held this roll call annually since 2008. This year, over 70 embassies and organizations took part, including the Embassy of Estonia and EANC as a sponsor of the event. The Foundation’s Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom was awarded to retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, who flew missions in the Berlin Airlift and gained notoriety as the “Candy Bomber” for dropping candy to German children during his runs.
The next Baltic-related event in Washington will be a Baltic Way 30th Anniversary event and commemoration of Black Ribbon Day on August 23rd. Further information will be provided as details become available.