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 firstname.lastname@example.org.