Advocacy

EANC Legislation of Interest

While Congress enters its pre-election recess, the Estonian American National Council (EANC) will stay in touch with Congressional staffers to ensure issues important to Estonian Americans aren’t forgotten as the elections become the focus of attention.  EANC actively advocates with Congressional offices to express support for legislation that impacts the security of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and the broader European and transatlantic region.  We work closely with our sister organizations representing diaspora communities from the Baltic and central and eastern European countries through the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) and Central and East European Coalition (CEEC).  The legislation listed below is taken from the CEEC’s quarterly policy update and the accompanying supported legislation list that we share with our contacts in Congress and use as a basis for our advocacy.

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA) S.4049/H.R.6395:  This is a huge annual bill that includes sections relevant to Estonia.  One part addresses the issue of proposed troop withdrawals from Germany – the House version includes language that would restrict the use of 2021 funds for realigning U.S. forces in Germany, while the Senate version does not at this point.  EANC, the JBANC, CEEC, and their member organizations strongly support the inclusion of that language in the Senate NDAA and its preservation in the final version.  Our main concern is the risk to Baltic, and broader transatlantic, security that the withdrawal would pose.  EANC is in direct contact with Senate and House Armed Services Committee leadership offices to ensure the troop withdrawal issue stays on their radar as the bill continues through its process to becoming law.  The bill also contains $11.4 million in Foreign Military Financing for each Baltic nation and a $150 million Baltic Security Initiative to enhance U.S.-Baltic security cooperation.

Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2019 (DASKAA) S.482:  Russian military actions against Ukraine, belligerence against the U.S. and its allies, and Russian government disinformation campaigns leading to electoral tampering have been noted by U.S. government officials as the primary geo-strategic challenge facing our foreign policy.  The CEEC advocates for a tougher stance that targets the multiple aggressive approaches taken by Russia, particularly against Ukraine and Georgia, whose territories continue to be occupied by regular Russian and irregular troops.  We condemn extrajudicial and transnational assassination attempts and poisonings of Kremlin opponents, including the recent attack on Alexei Navalny.  Implementation of DASKAA would carry 2017 sanctions legislation further to include sanctioning additional individuals, banks, and institutions, and strengthening banking regulations in order to maximize the economic impact of the sanctions. 

Cyber Diplomacy Act of 2019 H.R.739:  Cyberspace continues to grow as a platform for malign influence by adversaries to the U.S., Europe, and western democracy as a whole.  This act creates a U.S. international cyber policy that advances democratic principles and rejects attempts by Russia and China to extort more control and censorship over the internet.  As stated by House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX), it “elevates the State Department’s role in setting international cyber policy and strengthens our diplomatic tools.  By working with our foreign partners, this bipartisan legislation will globally promote a vibrant digital economy, multi-stakeholder Internet governance, and freedom online.”  EANC, JBANC, and the CEEC member organizations fully support a free and secure internet in the interest of protecting democracy and democratic values worldwide.

House and Senate resolutions supporting democracy in Belarus H.Res.1111/S.Res.689:  The fraudulent elections in Belarus held on August 9, 2020, and the ensuing violent crackdown against unarmed and peaceful protesters throughout the country are a threat to democracy in Europe and beyond.  The House resolution supports the people of Belarus and their democratic aspirations and condemns the election rigging and subsequent violent crackdowns on peaceful protestors by the Government of the Republic of Belarus. The Senate resolution condemns the crackdown on peaceful protestors in Belarus and calls for the imposition of sanctions on responsible officials.

House resolution Expressing support of the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) H.Res.672:  3SI is a forum of twelve European Union member nations situated along a north–south axis from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic Sea and the Black Sea in central and eastern Europe.  It aims to create a regional dialogue on issues affecting its members, including economic, infrastructure, transportation, and communications questions.  Programs like 3SI bolster integration, increase U.S. influence, and deflect the Kremlin’s influence in the region.  Better north-south connections and economic ties would help secure independence for the nations that are currently still dependent on Russia for some resources.  Estonia is hosting this year’s Three Seas Summit on October 19th and the House has a good chance of passing this resolution before then thanks to efforts by EANC, JBANC and the CEEC over the last year.  The CEEC sent a letter to House Foreign Affairs Committee leadership on September 23rd reaffirming our support for 3SI and received a thank you from Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), who introduced the legislation, for our “critical support” and “great timing.”

House and Senate resolutions urging the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline H.Res.116/S.Res.27:  Nord Stream 2 (NS2) is a pipeline that would give Russia greater political leverage over countries dependent on Russian gas.  The pipeline is in direct contravention of U.S. security interests and the EU’s own policy objective to diversify energy sources, and yet it is supported by Germany and is being built by Gazprom, Russia’s state-sponsored enterprise.  We commend U.S. sanctions that have delayed NS2 completion until late 2020 or early 2021 and call for U.S. leadership in ensuring the project is ended.

EANC will track these bills and resolutions until the 116th Congress ends on January 3rd, 2021.  We welcome constituent support and invite readers to contact their Senators and Representative on any of the legislation covered here.  If you have questions about reaching out to Congressional offices, or would like more background or support for your call or email, please contact our Washington, DC Director, Karin Shuey, at karinshueyeanc@gmail.com.

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Advocacy

CEEC Online Event Recap

Resilience and Russian Interference: Neutralizing the Kremlin’s Campaign to Dismantle Democracy

On September 18th, the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) held a virtual policy discussion on the Kremlin’s disinformation campaigns, Putin’s recent attempts at revisionism, their role in the changing political landscape, and implications for upcoming elections. Panelists explored effective counter-narratives to fight back on multiple levels, including in the political, economic, and military spheres, and how the Three Seas Initiative should be a positive factor in this challenge. As an active member in the CEEC, the Estonian American National Council’s Washington, DC Director played a large role in organizing and executing the successful and well-received event.

Panel members were:  Ambassador William Courtney, currently an adjunct senior fellow at the RAND Corporation, following a distinguished career in the foreign service, senior foreign policy positions, and the private sector; Lieutenant General (Retired) Ben Hodges, Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Analysis (CEPA), and former Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe (2014-2017); Mr. David Kramer, Senior Fellow in Florida International University’s Václav Havel Program for Human Rights and Diplomacy, with former senior positions at The McCain Institute, Freedom House, the German Marshall Fund, and  the Department of State, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (responsible for Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus affairs); and Mr. Viktoras Daukšas, head of Debunk.EU, an independent technology think tank and non-governmental organization that researches disinformation and runs educational media literacy campaigns.  The event was moderated by Mr. Michael Sawkiw, Vice President of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and Director of the Ukrainian National Information Service.

Clockwise from top left:  Moderator Michael Sawkiw, LTG (Retired) Ben Hodges, Mr. Viktoras Daukšas, Ambassador William Courtney, Mr. David Kramer.

Ambassador Courtney provided context for the discussion by reminding us that Russia and the Soviet Union have a long history of using active measures “as a low-cost or asymmetric weapon…to suppress freedom…” and drew parallels to the Kremlin’s current use of disinformation.  General Hodges framed the problem in terms of diplomacy, information, military and economic, or DIME, as the four main types of power that nations and alliances can exercise.  He praised Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for setting examples of “political courage, but also the way that they have put their voices together…to raise attention in Washington, and also in Brussels, to the threats and why that area is important.” 

Mr. Kramer began by recognizing the Putin regime “as an existential threat…to its own people…to its neighbors…and the United States.”  He cited the recent poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the 2007 cyber attack on Estonia, the invasions of Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, and the FBI’s recent report on election interference and efforts to sow division and discord in the U.S. as examples.  He cited agents of disinformation, such as RT and Cегодня as “tools in the Kremlin’s propaganda campaign…trying to create chaos, sow dissention and feed distrust in the countries where they are broadcast” and called on our political leaders to commit to facts and science-based analysis to protect ourselves from political manipulation.  He also noted that while successful democracies along its borders would be in Russia’s best interest as a nation, they are a threat to the system that Putin has established in Russia.

Mr. Daukšas shared Debunk EU’s processes in discrediting disinformation, and analysis of disinformation vs. debunking in terms of scales of cost, showing that engaging in disinformation is much cheaper than exposing it.  He presented information campaigns against the Defender 2020 U.S.-led multinational military exercise, and Coronavirus media coverage, as examples of topics that Debunk EU has studied. He acknowledged that many organizations are working on the problem, with more competition than cooperation among them.  Better communication and coordination, along with automation of their processes, would help make their work more effective. 

Top disinformation narratives targeting Defender 2020 as found by Debunk EU.

Questions and discussion addressed topics including State Department resources for combatting disinformation, the low rate of prosecution of agents of disinformation, what constituent organizations and individuals can do to help, the political situation in Belarus, the Three Seas Initiative as an alternative for countries that still rely on Russia for resources, and a recommendation for the women of Belarus for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Full video of the event and links to the speakers’ biographies are available on the CEEC website at ceecoalition.us.  The video is also posted on YouTube.   The next CEEC online policy event will take place on September 30th on the topic of political unrest in Belarus.  This upcoming event was requested by offices in Congress to help inform their legislative efforts in support of democracy there.  More information will be posted on the CEEC website and in social media as it becomes available.

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