As Russian troops maintain their presence on Ukraine’s borders and Russian President Vladimir Putin persists in his apparent agenda to rebuild the Soviet empire and weaken the West, Estonian officials are among the voices that have spoken out against Putin’s actions.
Members of U.S. Congress and the Administration have also condemned the Russian leader’s recent conduct and confirmed their support for Ukraine and NATO’s front line member nations, including Estonia.
According to CNN.com on December 17, Russian troop levels have been increasing since September, and even in the days since U.S. President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting on the subject with Putin on December 7.
On December 9, Biden met virtually, first with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, and then with the leaders of the Bucharest 9 group of nations, which was founded in November 2015 and consists of the countries that form the eastern boundary of NATO: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.
After the meeting, the White House announced its intent to continue negotiations with Putin on de-escalation in the region, also indicating that the talks would include NATO allies and would not reach any agreements about the nations concerned without their participation.
Also on December 9, Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA) introduced House Resolution 831 (H.Res.831) in support of NATO and maintaining democracy in its member nations, partners, and aspirant countries. It recognizes that “democracies across the alliance face external threats from authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China and internal threats from proponents of illiberalism” and that “the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is the world’s preeminent political and military alliance committed to democracy and the collective defense of its members.”
The resolution therefore calls on the U.S. government to “uphold the founding democratic principles of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and establish a Center for Democratic Resilience within the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.” The resolution has 36 bipartisan cosponsors as of December 20.
The House Baltic Caucus co-chairs, Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Don Bacon (R-NE) have also been vocal advocates for Ukraine and Baltic security in the context of recent events.
Rep. Bacon was interviewed on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on December 8. He stated he is taking the threat from Putin very seriously, noting that Putin would like to rebuild the Russian empire as it was at its peak.
Bacon supports painful sanctions against Russia and increased military aid to Ukraine.
At the 5:00 point of the interview, he discusses his conversations with Baltic officials, who see the situation in Ukraine as a threat to themselves.
In the Baltic countries, Bacon is in favor of a strong deterrence posture, including a more permanent U.S. presence and equipping them to better defend themselves.
Rep. Gallego has been in the news recently after leading a Congressional delegation to Ukraine in Early December and then calling on the White House to take a tougher stance to deter Putin from invading the country.
In response, a member of the Russian legislature threatened to take Gallego into custody, presumably the next time he visits.
AZCentral.com reported on December 15 that the Russian appeared on a Russian news program and said of Gallego, “We can grab him out of Ukraine and there’s nothing they could do, with our capabilities.”
Gallego offered a strong response on Twitter after learning of the threat and solidified his position as a strong ally of Ukraine in addition to the Baltic countries.
On December 17, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released two proposed treaties – one with the U.S. and one with NATO – that read like wish lists of security guarantees the Kremlin wants the West to abide by.
Their articles specify terms for deployment of nuclear weapons and troops, conduct of exercises, and the use of existing forums like the NATO-Russia Council and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to negotiate and resolve points of contention.
There are also provisions that would block the further enlargement of NATO, to include membership for Ukraine; and imply removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe, and withdrawal of NATO battalions from the Baltic nations and Poland.
The U.S. response to the documents is expected during the week before Christmas.
The Administration has already stated its commitment to Ukraine’s accession to NATO.
A White House press release for December 20 states that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has spoken with a Kremlin foreign policy advisor and indicated U.S. readiness to engage in diplomacy bilaterally and through NATO-Russia Council and OSCE channels.
Sullivan “made clear that any dialogue must be based on reciprocity and address our concerns about Russia’s actions, and take place in full coordination with our European Allies and partners.
He also noted that substantive progress can only occur in an environment of de-escalation rather than escalation.”
The Estonian American National Council (EANC) will continue to monitor the progress of negotiations among the U.S., its NATO allies, Kyiv, and Moscow and keep the Estonian American community updated and informed on ways to engage with Congress and the Administration on these issues.
Washington, DC Director
Estonian American National Council