EANC Thanks Ryan Delegation Members

EANC President Marju Rink-Abel issued a letter thanking members of last month’s Congressional Delegation (CODEL) trip that included a stop in Tallinn.  Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey, along with colleagues from the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC), delivered the letters in meetings with staffers in the Representatives’ offices.  Eight bipartisan representatives, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, made the trip in the last week of April.  They also made visits to the United Kingdom, Norway, and Poland.  The Members of Congress (MoC) joining Speaker Ryan were:  House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL), Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) andLetter to Ryan delegation members Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE).

The CODEL had meetings with President Kersti Kaljulaid, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, Foreign Minister Sven Mikser, and members of Parliament.  They also met with American soldiers and Marines currently stationed in Estonia in support of NATO’s response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.  Speaker Ryan’s office released a summary of their visit, which is available at > Menu > search for Estonia.

EANC and JBANC have so far met with six of the eight offices that participated in the trip, generally with the Representatives’ legislative assistants handling foreign affairs.  While some staffers were better versed than others on issues affecting Estonia, all expressed their MoC’s support for NATO, regional stability and continued military funding and engagement.  They recognized the threat posed by Russia’s aggressive behavior and the important message of solidarity this visit represented.  EANC and JBANC emphasized European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) funding and continued Foreign Military Financing as priorities for U.S.-Estonian security cooperation.  Discussions indicated that both have strong bipartisan support and would likely continue at current or even increased levels.  Three bills supporting Ukraine and sanctions against Russia were also highlighted.  Finally, since Congressm

Mast office visit

From left:  Karl Altau (JBANC), Sarah Miller (Rep. Mast staffer), Karin Shuey (EANC), Liv Hega Fears (JBANC).  Photo courtesy of JBANC.

an Meeks was the only House Baltic Caucus (HBC) member on the trip, the others were invited to continue their support for Estonia and the Baltics by joining the caucus.

EANC looks forward to delivering the remaining letters in the coming weeks, forging stronger relationships with current HBC members, and developing new relationships as the caucus grows.  Eleven new members have already joined since the 215th Congress convened in January, bringing HBC membership to 64.  You can check the list for your representative’s name at  EANC’s work with JBANC will continue to keep our representatives in both chambers of Congress aware of issues important to Estonia and to keep our constituents informed on relevant news from the Hill.


DC Think Tank Explores “Permanent Neutrality”

Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) senior vice presidents Heather Conley and Kathleen Hicks recently published their views on the current trend among some European policy experts to promote permanent neutrality as a way to create a new security order in Europe.  The concept was practiced by Finland during the Soviet era after entering the 1948 treaty with the Soviet Union that was the basis of Finlandization.  Today’s version involves ending NATO expansion and establishing the area lying between NATO and Russia as a zone of nations allowed to “choose their forms of government and diplomatic relations, yet [denied] the freedom to join any formal security organizations.”

NATO members and partners

Map courtesy of

In Ukraine, the constitution mandated neutral status by stating that the nation would not pursue NATO membership.  This may have seemed reasonable given the security assurances offered by the Budapest Memorandum, but the events of 2013-2014 made clear that maintaining neutrality was not in Ukraine’s interest, and it is now a close partner with NATO.  While Finland ended its Soviet-imposed nonaligned status in 1995 by joining the EU, it – along with Sweden – has so far maintained relative military neutrality, but now both nations are forging security alliances with their neighbors and considering making moves to join NATO.  Georgia and Moldova have also sought closer ties to NATO since the Soviet Union collapsed.  In each case, it is Russia’s actions that have prompted nations to turn to the West for security relationships and away from the Kremlin’s influence.

The authors advocate against the use of permanent neutrality, identifying it as a flawed approach for appeasing Russia because it comes at the expense of the “core democratic and international legal principles of sovereign choice” and the resulting destabilization of European and U.S. security structures.  They suggest that “[w]hat antagonizes Russian president Vladimir Putin is not simply NATO expansion but the Alliance’s very and continued existence.”  The contradiction between allowing the nations in question freedom over their forms of government and diplomacy while blocking their freedom to choose their security alliances plays directly into Putin’s agenda.

OSCE flags outside US mission

Photo courtesy of

The article underlines that along with NATO, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the enduring but oft-forgotten twin pillar of European security, and Russia is an active member.  Before proposing the return to a construct that limits the choices of sovereign nations and undermines an effective and relevant security architecture, the authors endorse revisiting and implementing the successful institutions that are already equipped to address today’s challenges.  While it may be in fashion for pundits, politicians and others to call for a new European order, those advocates are ignoring the validity of the current structure and the harm they’re doing to upholding the values of democracy and sovereignty.

The full CSIS article is available at > Analysis > There Is No Alternative to Sovereign Choice, April 27, 2017.


EANC and JBANC Support Regional Partners

Two of EANC’s sister organizations from the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) recently held events in Washington to call attention to Russia’s actions in the region.  The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) sponsored its annual “Ukraine Days” advocacy effort on March 8th.  On April 2nd, the Belarusian communities in Washington, DC – including representatives from the Belarusan-American Association – organized a demonstration near the White House to call for U.S. and European Union action in their nation.  EANC and the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) supported both events.

Belarus protest signs

Protesters at demonstration for Belarus near the White House.

The Ukrainian program included a briefing session with leaders of the Ukrainian-American community from throughout the U.S., followed by visits to both Senate and House members’ offices.  EANC Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey and JBANC Managing Director Karl Altau joined the team of Ukrainians from Virginia and North Carolina to visit offices representing those states.  During the course of the day, they met with staff working for Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Virginia congressman Don Beyer, and North Carolina Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr. The advocates spoke up about pending legislation affecting the region and pushing back against the aggression of the Putin regime. The day ended with a reception in the Capitol, which gave them another opportunity to discuss issues with Members of Congress and staff and with friends from the Ukrainian community and other friends of Ukraine.

The Belarusian demonstration took place a week after peaceful Freedom Day protests in Belarus were met with crackdowns by heavily-equipped riot police and detention of protesters.  JBANC has regularly supported demonstrations by the Belarusian community in Washington and was invited to participate on this occasion.  Ms. Shuey represented EANC and JBANC, presenting remarks on the nations’ shared history of defense of

Me at Belarus demonstration

Ms. Shuey speaking at Belarus demonstration.  (Photo courtesy of Ukrainian National Information Service.)

democracy, human rights and rule of law in the face of aggression by Russia.  She pledged continued support from the Baltic-American community until democracy is firmly established in Belarus.  The demonstration drew over 60 Belarusians, American
s and international supporters, to offer a united voice in appealing for appropriate engagement by the U.S. government, to include the extension of sanctions against Russia.

EANC values very highly its relationships with the other member organizations of the CEEC.  While the Estonian-American community makes up a small percentage of most congressional district populations, teaming up with the communities from our former Soviet Republic and Warsaw Pact neighbors, our voices become much stronger and more likely to get the attention of our lawmakers.  Our ongoing work with the CEEC produces policy statements and press releases, summaries of relevant legislation that we distribute on the Hill, and biannual forums for Congressional staffers and members of the foreign policy community that draw high-level speakers to shine a light on the hottest topics affecting our region.  For more information on the CEEC, please visit


Busy Week for Baltic Foreign Ministers

All three Baltic Ministers of Foreign Affairs were in Washington recently for meetings with the Administration, Congress and think tanks.  Estonian Minister Sven Mikser, along with colleagues Edgar Rinkēvičs from Latvia and Linas Linkevičius from Lithuania, held discussions with numerous officials on U.S.-Baltic relations and reaffirmed the Baltic nations’ strong partnerships with the U.S.

Balt ForMins Hudson

From left:  John P. Walters (Hudson Institute), Minister Linkevicius, Minister Mikser, Minister Rinkevics.  Photo courtesy of the Joint Baltic American National Committee.

Many of the points discussed during the week were summarized at an event on March 28th at the Hudson Institute, which established its relationship with the Baltic nations when it was the first Washington think tank to host the newly-appointed Baltic prime ministers back in 1991.  This event presented the foreign ministers in a panel format to consider the topic of the Baltic States and the Trump Administration and share the results of their meetings so far.

They began their remarks by outlining their conversations with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where U.S. officials reinforced their commitment to NATO and Article 5.  The Baltic leaders noted that they have had good cooperation with administrations of both parties since the 1990s and have no doubt that it will continue.  Both sides agreed that NATO needs to maintain the unambiguous message of deterrence established by the decisions made at the 2016 Warsaw Summit and that the multinational nature of the battalions deployed in the region shows that the Alliance is unified in doing just that.

While the Baltic leaders agreed that they won’t see a military altercation in their region despite the tendency of think tanks to speculate on the topic, several challenges were mentioned that require increased focus.  Hybrid threats, particularly propaganda and information warfare, remain a primary form of aggression from the Kremlin.  The ministers called for continued development of an organized, pragmatic approach and noted that the U.S. is coming to understand that it needs to address this threat.  The eleven nations participating in the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence are targeting propaganda from Russia and ISIS and would welcome more U.S. involvement.

Another key challenge is increasing popular support throughout member nations for Article 5.  There was consensus that Americans and Europeans value rules-based order and that the transatlantic community has benefitted from it.  National leaders need to do a better job of explaining to their citizens the importance of NATO and Article 5 in preserving their democracies and the institutions they rely on.

While in Washington, the ministers also attended the March 22nd meeting of the Ministers of the Global Coalition in the Defeat of ISIS.  They also met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  They finished their week in Brussels at the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers on March 31st.   Video of the Hudson Institute event is available at


Notable Estonians Testify in Congress

Ambassador Eerik Marmei and former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves both recently testified at separate Congressional hearings on Russia.  Marmei spoke before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs on March 7th.  Ilves addressed the House Foreign Affairs Full Committee (HFAC) on March 9th and was scheduled to appear again on March 15th before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.

The Senate Appropriations Committee hearing examined Russian policies and intentions toward specific European countries and was chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).  Witnesses included the Minister of Foreign Affairs from Ukraine and ambassadors from the three Baltic nations, Poland, and Georgia.  Its purpose was to broaden the committee’s understanding of Russia’s actions and their impact in the countries represented.  Ambassador Marmei stressed the importance of continued U.S. support and presence in the Baltic region and of implementing the decisions made at the NATO summits in Wales and Warsaw.  He encouraged members to avoid regionalizing the threat and instead to recognize Russia’s influence campaign as a threat throughout Europe and even reaching to the U.S. and beyond.  He expressed support for maintaining sanctions on Russia as long as the conditions of the Minsk agreement are not met.  He also described Russia’s current cyber and propaganda activities in Estonia and some measures the Estonian government has taken to counteract them.  A replay and written testimony for the hearing are available at

Ilves Marmei at HFAC

Estonian Ambassador Eerik Marmei and former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at Congressional hearing on Russia

The HFAC hearing, chaired by Representative Edward Royce (R-CA), focused on Russian disinformation efforts to undermine democratic institutions and splinter NATO.  In addition to President Ilves, witnesses included former State Department Assistant Secretary for Political Affairs Lincoln Bloomfield; former U.S. Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Daniel Baer; and Mr. Peter Doran, Executive Vice President of the Center for European Policy Analysis.  Ilves’ testimony included identifying Europe as Russia’s “main battlefield” for influence using policies directed at splitting up the EU and NATO.  He also described the 2007 cyber attack on Estonia as the first time a digital attack had been used as punishment for a nation’s policy.  Full details are available at

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 15th will assess Russia’s and other autocracies’ modus operandi and tool box for undermining democracies throughout the world.  More information is available at


Estonian Embassy Bestows Awards at Independence Day Commemoration

The Estonian Embassy in Washington hosted a reception on February 22nd in honor of the 99th anniversary of Estonian independence.  Among those attending were officials, diplomats, and representatives from the State Department, Congress, the Pentagon and the National Security Council. Ambassador Marmei opened the ceremony with greetings from President Kaljulaid.

The Ambassador bestowed presidential awards on three members of the audience.  Mr. James J. Townsend, Jr. received the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, 3rd Class for his contribution to security cooperation.  Mr. Townsend recently retired from his position as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European NATO Policy.  His work in European and NATO policy began around 1990 and was instrumental in the ascension of the Baltic nations into NATO membership.  He expressed deep appreciation for his recognition as an ardent supporter and good friend of Estonia.


Ambassador Marmei presents award to Mr. Townsend (photo courtesy of Estonian Embassy)

Mr. Alexander Russell Vershbow was awarded the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, 2nd Class to recognize his work to enhance security cooperation.  Mr. Vershbow was the U.S. Ambassador to NATO from 1998 to 2001, then served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation from 2001 to 2005.  In 2009, he was appointed as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, where he was responsible, among other things, for U.S. policy toward NATO, including supporting the continuing evolution of Estonia from new member to solid ally.  His career in European policy began in 1994 when he directed European Affairs at the National Security Council.

The citizen diplomacy award went to an Estonian-American in the Northern Virginia community, Mr. Tanel Beeren.  He was recognized for his contribution to promotion of Estonian culture in the Washington region.

The ceremony underlined the significance of players behind the scenes who don’t always get recognized for getting the important work done.  It also looked ahead to Estonia’s 100th anniversary of independence next year with gratitude and optimism for continued success and cooperation.


Atlantic Council Launch of Tallinn Manual 2.0

Estonian names remain in the forefront of cyber security, as demonstrated by the launch of the Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations.  The new volume was introduced this month at the Atlantic Council by members of the international team of experts that helped create it and other experts in the field.  It’s a relevant and comprehensive work at a time when cyber issues have become a major national security consideration.


NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence Director Sven Sakkov


The original Tallinn Manual was published in 2013 as a non-binding analysis of how existing international law pertains to cyber warfare and cyber conflicts.  It concentrated on cyber operations that were targeted at the state level and were significant enough to allow nations to respond in self-defense.  Since cyber attacks that don’t meet the threshold for armed response have become more prevalent, the updated edition is expanded to focus on a wider range of international law and cyber operations.


The drafting of the manual and its predecessor was led by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCD COE) in Tallinn.  The team of expert authors in international law and information technology came from member nations of the CCD COE.  Both editions of the manual were published by Cambridge University Press.


Liis Vihul, Tallinn Manual 2.0’s Managing Editor

The launch was attended by several notable Estonians and friends of Estonia.  The Centre’s director, Mr. Sven Sakkov, former Estonia Ministry of Defence Undersecretary for Defence Policy, and the director of the Tallinn 2.0 initiative, Professor Michael Schmidt of the U.S. Naval War College and the University of Exeter, were among the presenters.  The Centre’s legal advisor, Ms. Liis Vihul, served as the manual’s Managing Editor and also briefed on its creation.  Former President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, addressed the launch’s audience at the reception following the event.

The manual is intended as a reference source for nations’ legal advisors interested in the application of international law to cyber operations.  It provides agreed-to norms and principles informed by states and international organizations rather than actual legal code.  The authors were careful to capture all reasonable views on the issues to guide interpretation by states to help them make appropriate legal decisions on cases in their jurisdiction.


Former President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, speaking at the reception

The CCD COE is a research, education and training facility accredited by NATO.  It currently has 17 sponsoring member nations that staff and finance the Centre, and as such, it is not part of NATO’s military command structure.  The manual represents the views of its authors and is not an official publication of NATO, its member nations or any other state or organization.  More information on the Centre and manual is available at  The write-up and webcast of the launch event is posted at Atlantic Council’s website under Recent Events.