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.
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.
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.