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.