Advocacy

Estonian Chief of Defence Forces Visits Washington, DC

Major General Martin Herem recently made his first official visit as the Chief of Estonian Defence Forces to our nation’s capital and was hosted by the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) think tank for a conversation about his perspectives on defense issues going into the next decade.  Topics included security challenges facing Estonia and the region, Estonia’s defense priorities, deterring Russian military action along NATO’s eastern border, and how to strengthen Baltic defense cooperation.  Estonian American National Council (EANC) Washington, DC Director, Karin Shuey attended the event and extended EANC greetings to welcome him to Washington. More information and photos of the event are available at www.cepa.org/defending-the-frontline-military-re.

MG Herem, Reka, me

From left:  CEPA Executive Vice President Réka Szemerkényi, Major General Herem, and EANC’s Karin Shuey

CEPA described Estonia as playing “a critical role in resisting [Kremlin] influence and maintaining the stability of NATO’s frontline.” Estonian forces participate in many NATO operations and exercises, both in the Baltic region and globally, giving them first-hand experience in assessing the threats facing the alliance in the area and on the effectiveness of cooperative missions there.  The missions include Operation Atlantic Resolve, which comprises 6,000 soldiers from 17 nations that since 2014 have focused on enhancing deterrence along NATO’s eastern flank; and NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence, which was established in 2016 and consists of multinational battlegroups based in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, also to increase deterrence and reassure member states in eastern Europe of their security.  U.S. funding for both missions comes, at least in part, from the European Deterrence Initiative, which was initiated in 2014, and is a program that EANC consistently advocates for in Congress.

While the CEPA discussion was off-the-record, an essay by General Herem was published in December in Defense News as part of the magazine’s 2020 Outlook project.  In it, he identifies the Baltic region as “the spot where Russia might be tempted to test the strength of NATO in a global power competition,” adding, “We cannot let that happen.”  He outlines reforms underway in NATO, the conditions necessary to maintain a credible deterrent posture, budgetary and procurement concerns, and his thoughts on defense cooperation regionally and beyond.  The full article is available at www.defensenews.com/outlook, by scrolling down to the December 2, 2019 article Estonian chief of Defence Forces: Regional cooperation as the main enabler.

Major General Herem became Commander of the Estonian Defence forces in December 2018, taking over from General Riho Terras.  His previous assignments include Commander of the North-Eastern Defence District, Commandant of the Estonian National Defence College, and Chief of Staff of the Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces.  EANC looks forward to future visits by General Herem to keep current on U.S.-Estonia military cooperation and the evolving defense challenges Estonia faces.

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Advocacy

Recent Estonian Embassy Events

The Embassy of Estonia to the U.S. has recently hosted several events of interest to the local community and beyond.  Three of these were held at the Mehari Sequar Gallery in Washington, DC where a photography exhibit by an Estonian American artist is currently on display.  Estonian American National Council (EANC) Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey was on hand at all of them to show support and report back to the Estonian American community.

Tartu Amb

Ambassador Vseviov at the Treaty of Tartu event

The embassy’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Tartu Peace Treaty on January 31st at the gallery was titled Treaty of Tartu – The Birth Certificate of Estonia and featured a panel of distinguished historians.  Background provided in the invitation set the stage for the event:

On 2 February 2020, it will be 100 years since the signing of the Tartu Peace Treaty between the Republic of Estonia and Soviet Russia.  By concluding the Tartu Peace Treaty on 2 February 1920, Russia recognized the independence of the Republic of Estonia and ended the War of Independence.

The Tartu Peace Treaty opened the door for Estonia’s international recognition. With the treaty, Russia recognized Estonia’s independence for an eternal time forever de jure, voluntarily and forever withdrawing from all sovereign rights that Russia had had for the people and land of Estonia.

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Dr. Olavi Arens

Ambassador Jonatan Vseviov made opening remarks highlighting the differences between the 1920 and 1939-1944 milestones in Estonian history. He reminded the audience that “history never ends” and that Estonia had help from many nations in winning its freedom.  “Estonia was not alone in the War of Independence” while in 1944, Estonians did find themselves alone.  His remarks emphasized that “It’s our job as citizens to ensure [history remains] more similar to February 2nd, 1920 than to August 23rd, 1939.”

Dr. Olavi Arens of Georgia Southern University and Professor Andres Kasekamp from the University of Toronto provided interesting, in-depth discussions of the history behind the treaty and the events that led to its establishment.

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Professor Andres Kasekamp

The Mehari Sequar Gallery is the current home of the exhibit The Heart We Left Behind by photographer Maria Spann, on display through February 13th.  The exhibit features photos of Estonians who fled their homes in 1944 alongside objects they brought with them or that hold significance from that time.  The embassy hosted the opening of the exhibit there on January 15th and a screening of the Estonian film Risttuules (In the Crosswinds) on January 8th.   The exhibit created a poignant backdrop for the events held at the gallery and is available for display as a traveling exhibit.  More information is available at www.meharisequargallery.com.  If your community is interested in hosting the exhibit at a local gallery, please contact Maria at me@mariaspann.com.

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