Advocacy

Senate Hearing Held for Nominee to Ambassador Post in Estonia

On May 13th, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held a nomination hearing for five proposed ambassador postings, including the nomination of Mr. William Ellison Grayson of California to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Estonia.  The full committee heard testimony from each nominee and asked them questions to assess their vision and goals, and their plans to achieve them, should they be confirmed to their prospective positions.  Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) presided over the hearing.

William Ellison Grayson
(Photo source: Presidio Trust)

Mr. Grayson introduced his family to the Committee and then began his testimony.  He demonstrated solid knowledge of Estonia and the country’s main interests and concerns.  He praised the friendship that the U.S. and Estonia have shared for over 100 years and the “unwavering support [Estonia has shown] for our shared defense and security around the globe.”  He noted this year’s 80th anniversary of the Welles Declaration that defined the U.S. policy of nonrecognition of Soviet annexation of the Baltic nations. 

Mr. Grayson identified the Three Seas Initiative and its 2020 Summit, which Tallinn will host in October, as important efforts for “accelerat[ing] cross-border commerce through north-south energy, transportation, cyber and digital infrastructure projects” in central Europe, and to protect against malign foreign investments that don’t serve the interests of the region or the U.S.  On the technology front, he called Estonia a “a shining example of innovation to the world” and looks forward to continuing and expanding U.S.-Estonia cyber cooperation.  Video of the full hearing is available at foreign.senate.gov/hearings for May 13th; Mr. Grayson’s testimony begins at approximately the 42-minute point.  A link to his testimony in written form is also provided on the same webpage. 

Mr. Grayson introducing his family to the SFRC
(Photo source: foreign.senate.gov)

Senators Jean Shaheen (D-NH) and Chris Coons (D-DE) addressed Mr. Grayson on his views regarding Estonia’s role in NATO and NATO’s presence in the region.  Senator Shaheen, who is the newest member of the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus as of March of this year, identified Russian aggression and its military buildup along its borders with the Baltic nations as among Estonia’s primary threats.  She asked if Mr. Grayson thought the U.S. and NATO forces in the region were enough to deter Russian military action.  Senator Coons asked how Mr. Grayson views Estonia’s contributions to NATO.  Mr. Grayson expressed confidence in the United Kingdom-led NATO Enhanced Forward Presence Battalion stationed in Estonia and affirmed that the U.S. considers Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty to be “ironclad.”  He stated that the U.S. and the administration will “fully support whatever needs the Estonians have” to ensure their security.  He also commended the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn and the prolific bilateral cooperation on cyber issues that he hopes to “turbocharge” should his nomination be confirmed.  The Senators’ questions can be viewed in the video link above at the 1:14 and 1:59 points, respectively.

Mr. Grayson’s background includes senior positions in financial services and management, as a lawyer, and as a public servant.  He has held appointments under Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, in the Obama administration, and under the current administration.  Details of his qualifications and relevant experience are posted in his State Department Certificate of Demonstrated Competence at state.gov/grayson-william-ellison-republic-of-estonia-october-2019.  EANC looks forward to following and keeping our readers informed on the rest of his confirmation process and to meeting him and working with him once he is confirmed.

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Advocacy

Protesting Joint Statement Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Meeting on the Elbe

As we approach the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe on May 8th, the Estonian American National Council (EANC) recently joined with two protests of the Joint Statement by President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Meeting on the Elbe issued by the White House in late April.  The Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) and the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) both published statements objecting to the terms of the commemoration and to President Trump’s engagement with the Russian president.  EANC is a member of both JBANC and CEEC and helped craft the written protests.  The JBANC statement is posted at www.jbanc.org  and the CEEC version can be found at ceecoalition.us.  Both are also reprinted below.

EANC fully concurs with the points made in both objections.  The Trump-Putin statement portrays the meeting of the U.S. and Soviet armies on April 25, 1945 as a symbol of victory over the Nazis and cooperation between the two powers.  It fails to recognize the historical context established by the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact that ushered in 50 years of Soviet-led oppression across the Baltic counties and nations of central and eastern Europe.  Perhaps more concerning is the statement’s tacit support for the Kremlin’s ongoing historical revisionism and open campaigns to destabilize western democracies.

The JBANC and CEEC objections call for the U.S. to remember the decades of American leadership in the Cold War against the Soviet-led spread of communism and support for the democracies that emerged in 1991.  They also caution against becoming complicit in Putin’s malign agenda, which initiated the joint statement by the two presidents.  U.S. policy and action should uphold democratic values, not enable efforts to undermine them.  EANC will always reinforce historical accuracy while promoting democracy, individual liberty, rule of law, and national security and sovereignty wherever we find an opportunity to do so, and particularly when Estonia and its neighbors are affected.

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CEEC logo fix final

ceecoalition.us

Washington, DC                                                                      May 6, 2020

On April 25, 2020, the White House released a Joint Statement by President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Meeting on the Elbe.  In honor of the May 8th anniversary of the end of World War II, the CEEC objects to this statement and calls for the United States government to recognize the anniversary’s tragic historical significance as it marked the beginning of 50 years of oppression for the nations of our heritage.

In the statement, both parties highlighted the “historic meeting between American and Soviet troops, who shook hands on the damaged bridge over the Elbe River…herald[ing] the decisive defeat of the Nazi regime.” In addition, the statement conveys “the ‘Spirit of the Elbe’ [as] an example of how our countries can put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause.”

The CEEC is alarmed over the statement’s disregard of the brutal legacy of the Soviet Union, its enabling of the Kremlin’s historical revisionism, and its failure to recognize the Putin regime’s revanchism in Europe. We find the statement to be inconsistent with a committed stance against Moscow’s ongoing antagonism toward the U.S. and its allies.

We recognize that the end of Hitler and Nazism was a historic victory for the U.S., Europe, and the world. We also realize that nations across the globe today must work together to coordinate efforts against pandemics and other threats to the human race. However, this joint statement with Putin on the legacy of WWII fails on a number of fronts.

The statement does not include historical context acknowledging that the Allies’ partnership with the Soviet Union precipitated almost 50 years of Moscow’s subjugation of half of Europe. Under the totalitarian rule of the Soviet Union, Central and Eastern European nations suffered rampant human rights abuses, political and economic corruption, and loss of fundamental freedoms.

Indeed, the statement enables the Kremlin’s dangerous historical revisionism that seeks to validate the Soviet Union and its post-Soviet incarnation as a partner to build “trust” with. We must remember the hegemony that the Soviets wrought in Europe, and how Americans led the West in the Cold War against it for nearly half a century. We must not let the U.S. be complicit in the Putin regime’s false narrative of the Soviet Union’s legacy.

In the context of this legacy, the statement also fails to acknowledge the Putin regime’s calculated foreign policy to undermine U.S. interests and dominate democracies at its borders and around the globe. Putin has called the collapse of the Soviet empire “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” In noting the U.S. and Russia “put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause … to confront the most important challenges of the 21st century,” the statement in fact facilitates the military and political revanchism over Europe that Putin continues to plot.

Today, Putin’s regime continues to antagonize the U.S. and its allies in Europe through a hybrid war of disinformation, election interference, cyber-attacks, and protracted occupation of parts of Ukraine and Georgia. It threatens the peace and stability that American leadership has enabled through decades of investment and partnership after WWII. We cannot afford to “put aside differences” of principle, rule of law, and aggressive actions.

As we mark the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, the CEEC calls for U.S. policy and action that uphold democratic values and the long history of American leadership in protecting them. We urge President Trump to place those values ahead of engaging with a regime that fails to respect the sovereignty of other nations, promotes the corrupt legacy of a failed state, and continues to wage aggression against the U.S. and its allies.

American Hungarian Federation • American Latvian Association in the U.S. • Armenian Assembly of American • Belarusan-American Association • Bulgarian Institute for Research and Analysis • Congress of Romanian Americans • Washington Chapter Czechoslovak National Council of America • Estonian American National Council • Georgian Association in the USA • Hungarian American Coalition • Joint Baltic American National Committee • Lithuanian American Council • Lithuanian American Community • National Federation of American Hungarians • Polish American Congress • Slovak League of America • Ukrainian Congress Committee of America • Ukrainian National Association

ceecoalition.us  |  c/o Polish American Congress, 1612 K Street NW Suite 1200, Washington, DC 20006  |  ceecoalition@gmail.com

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JBANC statement title

On April 25, 2020, the White House released a Joint Statement by President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Meeting on the Elbe.

In the statement, both parties highlight the “historic meeting between American and Soviet troops, who shook hands on the damaged bridge over the Elbe River.  This event heralded the decisive defeat of the Nazi regime.” In addition, the statement conveys that “the ‘Spirit of the Elbe’ is an example of how our countries can put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause.”

The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) is alarmed 1) over the origins of the statement, which purportedly was at the initiative of the Kremlin, 2) that the statement says nothing to reject the revanchism of the Putin regime, and 3) which is without proper historical context in noting the totalitarianism and terror of the Soviet regime.

While there is no doubt that the end of Hitler and Nazism in 1945 was a tremendous victory, it came at enormous cost, and was only a partial victory.

The end of the Second World War meant freedom for some parts of the world, but for Soviet Russia and Soviet-occupied countries it meant a life under a malevolent totalitarian regime, which didn’t regard freedom and liberty as anything of value. It should be remembered that without the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe the United States would perhaps not have gotten into the deadly global debacle that Hitler and Stalin created.

As rightly noted in the 2019 Resolution by the European Parliament, “on 23 August 1939, the communist Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a Treaty of Non-Aggression, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and its secret protocols, dividing Europe and the territories of independent states between the two totalitarian regimes and grouping them into spheres of interest, which paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War.” On that basis, the Soviet Union in 1940 occupied Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Only half a century later, the Baltic nations regained their freedom once more.

Today, the Putin regime continues its dangerous historical revisionism and continues to undermine and attack democracies at its borders and around the globe. We must remember what the Soviets wrought and that Americans fought back against this for nearly half a century. We must not let ourselves be played into the Putin regime’s narrative of this history.

The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) represents the Estonian American National Council, Inc., the American Latvian Association, Inc., and the Lithuanian American Council, Inc.

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