As one of its main missions, the Estonian American National Council (EANC) tracks legislation pertaining to Estonia, the Baltic nations, and the broader central and east European region, and advocates for its support from Members of Congress in meetings and events with lawmakers and their staff on Capitol Hill. EANC works with the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) and our Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) partner organizations to choose the bills and resolutions most important to the region and coordinate our messages and resources to have the strongest impact possible.
EANC is proud to participate in advocacy for Estonia and the region, and to have contributed to the passage of the legislation that became law last year. We wholeheartedly thank all members of the Estonian American community who have taken part in grassroots advocacy and played a major role in effectively getting our message to Congress. As the second session of the 116th Congress gets underway, it’s a good time to review progress on legislation relevant to Estonia from the end of 2019 and to take a look at bills, resolutions, and issues that could benefit from constituent support moving forward.
Much of the legislation that we advocated for last year was rolled into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 (S.1790/NDAA) and the Consolidated Appropriations Acts for 2020 (H.R.1158 and H.R.1865), which were passed by Congress at the end of 2019. The NDAA included:
- Authorization of $125 million for Baltic military interoperability with NATO.
- Prohibition through Dec. 31, 2020 of funds to suspend or terminate U.S. involvement in NATO.
- Sanctions against Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline that Russia has been building over the past several years to increase its energy dominance – and political influence – over Europe.
The Appropriations Acts included:
- $50 million to boost air defense capabilities across the Baltic region.
- Funding for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) in the amount of $5.9 billion, including funding to maintain U.S. troop presence in the Baltic nations.
- $24 million in foreign military financing – $8 million each for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
- $3.6 million in International Military Education and Training funds – $1.2 million each for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
- $290 million for the Countering Russian Influence fund.
- Financing for energy infrastructure that the Baltic governments can apply for.
- Funding for countering Russian influence in Europe.
Other relevant resolutions that were passed included:
- Res.385 – A resolution celebrating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of both Germany and Europe, and the spread of democracy around the world. It included language commemorating the Baltic Way:
“Whereas, on August 23, 1989, several million people across the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which were illegally annexed in 1940 by the Soviet Union, demonstrated bravery and resilience by joining hands to form a 500-kilometer long human chain to peacefully demand their independence;”
- Res.546 – Disapproving the Russian Federation’s inclusion in future Group of Seven summits until it respects the territorial integrity of its neighbors and adheres to the standards of democratic societies.
Another advocacy victory for U.S. Baltic relations came in the form of membership increases for the Baltic caucuses on Capitol Hill. House Baltic Caucus membership increased by nine members in 2020 while the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus grew from eight to thirteen members.
Looking ahead, there are several pieces of legislation and issues that EANC will advocate for along with its partner organizations. 2019 legislation that we are working to have reintroduced for 2020 includes:
- 482 – The Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKAA). This is a comprehensive sanctions bill that has a lot of bipartisan support and is expected to pass in the Senate in early part of 2020. There is currently no companion bill on the House side, which will need to be introduced and passed before the sanctions can become law.
- J.Res.4 – A joint resolution requiring the advice and consent of the Senate or an Act of Congress to suspend, terminate, or withdraw the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty and authorizing related litigation, and for other purposes.
- R.739 – Cyber Diplomacy Act, establishing the Office of International Cyberspace Policy within the Department of State, to advise the State Department on cyberspace issues, to lead diplomatic efforts on issues relating to international cybersecurity, Internet access and freedom, and international cyber threats.
- Res.672 – Expressing support of the Three Seas Initiative in its efforts to increase energy independence and infrastructure connectivity thereby strengthening the United States and European national security.
More information on all of the legislation discussed here can be found at www.congress.gov by searching for the bill or resolution number.
EANC will also focus on the following topics and others as they arise:
- The nomination of William Ellison Grayson to the post of U.S. Ambassador to Estonia.
- Pushing back on the Kremlin’s disinformation campaigns, including its attempts to rewrite the history of World War II in Russia’s favor during this year of major anniversaries.
- House Baltic Caucus-led resolution commemorating the 30th anniversary of the restoration of the Baltic nations’ independence.
- European energy security and diversification.
EANC welcomes its readers to contact their Members of Congress to ask for support on any of these pieces of legislation or issues, and to encourage joining the Baltic caucuses. Constituent participation is the most effective way to inform Representatives and Senators on the issues important to our community and to contribute to stronger U.S.-Estonia relations. Please continue to check our website – www.estosite.org – for updates and contact our Washington, DC Director, Karin Shuey, at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or to learn more about how to speak up for Estonia.