Advocacy

Call to Action: Joint Baltic American National Committee Virtual Advocacy Day

JBANC is calling on Baltic Americans to join us in welcoming the new Congress and letting them know about the issues that matter to us!  Baltic Advocacy Days 2021 will take place virtually March 8-12 and requires registration by February 15th.  Participants will have opportunities to speak up for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania through meetings with their Senators’ and Representatives’ offices, making calls, and sending e-mails and letters.  Training and background information will be provided.

Since 2018, JBANC, with support from its parent organizations: the American Latvian Association (ALA); the Estonian American National Council (EANC); and the Lithuanian American Council, along with the Lithuanian American Community; and sponsorship from the Baltic advocacy group, Baltivist; have organized annual Baltic Advocacy Days on Capitol Hill.  The goal of these advocacy days has been for Baltic Americans and constituents to meet with their Members of Congress (MoCs) and voice their concerns over U.S. policy issues relevant to the Baltic nations.  Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in-person meetings are not possible this year, therefore JBANC and Baltivist are working hard to make these meetings possible virtually!

There will be a limited number of meetings scheduled for the week, and there is limited space for attendance, so we urge you to register promptly by February 15th.  If we’re not able to schedule meetings with your MoCs’ offices, your calls and correspondence will still have a huge impact in sharing our message and raising awareness on our issues of concern.

We ask that you sign up through the Baltivist advocacy site here: baltivist.com/advocacy-day-2021-sign-up.

There you will also find valuable resources to aid in preparation.  We will send out informational one-pagers on the issues and other supporting documents to participants closer to the event.  In addition, Baltivist will provide training the week before the event.

If you have any questions, please contact EANC Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey at karinshueyeanc@gmail.com.

Updates will be published here and on the Facebook event page titled First [Virtual] Baltic Advocacy Week.  JBANC and EANC look forward to seeing you there!

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Advocacy

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing for Secretary of State Nomination

On January 19th, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held its hearing to consider the nomination of Mr. Antony Blinken to the position of Secretary of State.  The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) drafted and submitted questions to the Committee to highlight the CEEC’s areas of concern.  The Estonian American National Council (EANC) Washington, DC Director has been heavily engaged in the CEEC’s work and in tracking the nomination process.

The CEEC’s questions covered a range of policy issues that that the Secretary of State should be expected to tackle.  Topics addressed included U.S. sanctions related to the August 2020 elections in Belarus and the Kremlin’s violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty; countering hybrid warfare, disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks against Europe and the U.S. from sources within Russia and elsewhere; U.S. commitment to NATO; U.S. assistance in ensuring energy security in the CEE region; and how the U.S. should address the emerging geopolitical alliance between Russia and Turkey.  The full CEEC document is posted at ceecadvocacy.org

Restoring America’s status as a trusted leader in the international community was a main focus of the hearing.  Blinken identified his top priorities, which included working with Congress to reinvigorate the Department of State, and working across government and with partners around the world to revitalize American diplomacy.  He affirmed that American leadership still matters and that “America at its best still has a greater ability than any county on Earth to mobilize others for the common good.”

While much of the discussion centered on addressing threats from Iran, China, and the Middle East, he also acknowledged that “challenges posed by Russia across a whole series of fronts are urgent” and would be high on the agenda for the incoming Administration.  He expressed support for U.S. lethal defensive aid to Ukraine and for keeping NATO’s door open to Georgia, and expressed opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.  Regarding the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny this week, he noted that “it’s extraordinary how frightened Putin seems to be of one man” and stated the importance of the political opposition in Russia that represents millions of Russian citizens.  He condemned Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles and called for a review of the existing sanctions against Turkey to determine whether more should be done. 

Blinken praised the success of the Global Magnitsky sanctions regime in “bringing democracies together and giving them an effective tool to push back” on human rights abuses.  He confirmed his commitment to ensuring the sanctions continue to be effective and his support of other countries adopting similar legislation.  During questioning, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) acknowledged the role of nonprofits in advocating for Magnitsky legislation, which has been one of EANC’s top advocacy priorities, and announced his intention to introduce a bill to enhance the sanctions.

Video of the full hearing is available at www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/nominations.

Blinken’s foreign policy experience includes positions on the National Security Council during the Clinton Administration, staff director for the SFRC from 2002 to 2008, and Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy Secretary of State under the Obama Administration.  The SFRC is expected to vote on his nomination on January 25th and will then send it to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.  EANC will continue to monitor the process and keep our readers informed.

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Advocacy

2020 Legislative Recap

Legislation signed into law at the end of 2020 included several items relevant to the Baltic countries and the broader region.  The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (FY21 Omnibus) had provisions for funding and policy that support Baltic and European security and democracy.

Most significant was the Baltic Security Initiative (BSI) in the NDAA, which consists of just under $169 million in International Security Cooperation Programs for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.  It also directs the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, “to submit a multi-year strategy and spend plan…describing the goals, objectives, and milestones for programs such as air defense, maritime situational awareness, ammunition, special forces, and [command and control], and the benefits of such programs for deterrence.” This strategy will also include information on the capabilities of each country, along with their financial contributions towards their own security, NATO, and programs supported by the BSI.  It establishes a formal vehicle for long-term policy planning and defense cooperation funding support that has so far been done on a year-to-year basis.  ERR News published an article on December 23, 2020 with more information on the initiative.  The NDAA also included $10 million for each Baltic nation in Foreign Military Financing, which is the largest allocation in 10 years.

On the policy front, the NDAA imposes expanded sanctions on Russia intended to prevent the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which threatens Europe’s energy independence.  It also includes sanctions on Turkey for its decision to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia.  The FY21 Omnibus bill included the Belarus Democracy, Human Rights, and Sovereignty Act of 2020, which recognizes the elections held in Belarus as fraudulent, sanctions Belarusian government officials who blocked the nation’s democratic transition, and provides support to local media in Belarus and its technology sector.

The Estonian American National Council has been advocating for these bills and initiatives all year, and is grateful for the support they have received in Congress and the Administration.  Please know that it is through the support and contributions of the Estonian American community that our advocacy on important security issues such as these is made possible. Your contributions help bring results, and we look forward to another successful year of advocacy and engaging our community on important issues from Washington, DC.

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