On March 25, EANC and JBANC representatives met with Brent Hartley, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. Karl Altau, JBANC; Marju Rink-Abel, and the JBANC Latvian and Lithuanian representatives.
March 25, 2014
Recent aggression by Russia in Ukraine has precipitated strong and immediate actions by the Estonian American National Council (EANC) and the Joint Baltic American National Council (JBANC), working with the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) regarding the security of the entire region.
Our current priority is Ukraine – specifically, getting the U.S. Senate to pass Senate Bill 2124 – Support for the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy and Economic Stability of Ukraine – which will provide Ukraine with a billion dollar loan guarantee. Immediate financial support to strengthen Ukraine, as well as other concrete steps to help Ukraine, and sanctions on Russia by the U.S. and European Union, will help with the security of the region and NATO countries as well.
Please contact your Senators and urge them to vote for S.2124 supporting Ukraine, as well as two other Senate bills listed in the JBANC letter to Senators below. Thank your Representatives for their support and tell them to continue to support Ukraine and NATO.
Also write to President Obama (http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments) urging continued U.S. support for Ukraine and the increasing of sanctions on Russia, and also thanking him for the steps taken so far by the United States.
The following events have taken place in Washington DC as of March 25, 2014:
In addition to the demonstration on March 6 organized by Ukrainian organizations, JBANC organized a rally for Ukraine on March 2 in Washington. JBANC and EANC representatives were present at both, and EANC President Marju Rink-Abel spoke at both in the name of Estonian Americans. JBANC released the following press release about these events:
(Washington, DC) – Members of the Joint Baltic American Committee, Inc. (JBANC) and other Baltic-Americans engaged actively in rallies in Washington, DC over the last week to lend support to Ukraine against Russia’s aggression.
On March 6, a mass rally in front of the White House brought dozens of activists from the Baltic-American community to an estimated crowd of more than 2000 people from throughout the United States. The rally was organized in solidarity with Ukraine, and to denounce Putin’s aggression in Crimea, which is in violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and international laws. Moscow’s actions are being strongly denounced, and JBANC is sharing in the global condemnation.
Messages of support for Ukraine were given by Members of Congress, including House Baltic Caucus members Representatives Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, and Sander Levin of Michigan. Members of the Baltic-American community also gave remarks at the rally – JBANC Board member Marju Rink-Abel, President of the Estonian American National Council, Ausma Tomsevics of the American Latvian Association, and Asta Banionis of the Lithuanian American Community.
Ms. Tomsevics, in her remarks of support for Ukraine, suggested that the United States “implement sanctions and legislation to extinguish the geopolitical control efforts of Russia, including moving forward to expedite the approval of U.S. natural gas exports [to Ukraine].”
The United States Congress is currently considering a $1 billion economic aid package to Ukraine, which includes support for energy projects to help Ukraine fend off pressure from Moscow.
Many other members from the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) spoke at the rally, which was organized by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, JBANC’s partner in the CEEC. Among the many hundreds of other participants of the rally were many Crimean Tatars, who are not only suffering now under Russia’s aggression, but reliving memories of their en masse forced deportation by Stalin in 1944.
Other demonstrations in support of Ukraine were held this week in Washington, DC, including a rally at Dupont Circle which was organized by JBANC and featured remarks by Ambassadors Olexsander Motsyk of Ukraine and Zygimantas Pavilionis of Lithuania, and David Kramer, president of Freedom House. Another demonstration was held later that day in front of the Russian Embassy. Other recent rallies in support of Ukraine in New York and Chicago have included many activists from the Baltic-American communities.
2. White House conference call
JBANC was invited by the White House to participate in a conference call with senior-level administration staff to receive an update on the Obama administration’s ongoing work to address the crisis in Ukraine. During that call the importance of passing S.2124 was also discussed.
3. JBANC letter to Congress
JBANC, representing EANC and Latvian and Lithuanian central organizations, hand delivered the following letter to 95 Senate offices, and mailed it to the other five:
March 11, 2014
The Honorable ——
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator ——
The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC), representing Americans of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian heritage, has worked with Congress since 1961 to raise issues of interest and concern to the Baltic-American community, and to help formulate U.S. policy affecting the Baltic nations.
We strongly condemn the brazen actions of Putin’s government against the people of Ukraine and that country’s territorial integrity. Russia’s military invasion of Crimea and its escalation of the conflict are an affront to international civility and law and order, a threat to neighboring countries including Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and a shameful display for decent citizens of Russia, who are enduring Putin’s increasing authoritarianism. The disinformation and outright fabrications generated by the Kremlin’s propaganda machinery against Ukraine, its people, and government is outrageous and dangerous. The forceful meddling in regional political affairs in Crimea under the real imposition of force reminds us of similar tactics used by Soviet occupiers against the Baltic countries in 1939-40. This scenario repeated itself throughout Central and Eastern European lands that came under Soviet control and colonization. It was not acceptable then, and it is not acceptable today.
Putin’s aggression sets a terrible precedent. It must be stopped. We ask for your support in the following areas:
1) Consider the Support for Ukraine Act in a timely matter, and to support energy relief for Ukraine;
2) Co-sponsor S. 1933, the Global “Magnitsky” Human Rights Act, which would help broaden sanctions against corrupt oligarchs and human rights violators by denying them travel to the U.S. and by freezing their assets. This would include sanctions against the former Yanukovych regime. We hope that implementation of the original Magnitsky law (PL: 112-208) is also taken seriously, by having the list of individuals and sanctions expanded against Putin’s regime. We ask that the U.S. also consider other sanctions directed against the Putin state, including suspending Russia from the G8, and blocking their OECD membership;
3) Support legislation (including S. 192), to export LNG from the U.S. to Strategic Allies, including the Baltics.
These measures would all greatly demonstrate conviction by the United States, which would send a strong message for Putin, and also show support for the democratic aspirations of Ukraine.
We look forward to your support and working together on these issues.
Sincerely, Karl Altau
Managing Director, JBANC
4. Diaspora communities’ letter to Congress
EANC and JBANC, together with over twenty national diaspora organizations, were co-signers of a March 24 letter to Congress on the Ukrainian legislation.
5. Meeting with former ambassadors to Central European region
The Central and East European Coalition (with JBANC and EANC in attendance) met last week with former Ambassadors Bill Taylor (Ukraine), Rich Kauzlarich (Azerbaijan and Bosnia-Herzegovina), and Bill Courtney (Kazakhstan and Georgia) to discuss possible actions. As a result, the CEEC came up with an action plan that includes holding two policy briefings on Ukraine in Congress in the next two weeks, visits to key Congressional offices, and a meeting with the Administration.
6. Meeting with State Department
On March 25, EANC and JBANC representatives met with Brent Hartley, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and Baltic Desk Officers. The focus of the meeting was the Baltics, Russia, and Ukraine.
7. JBANC co-sponsors policy briefing
A Congressional policy briefing titled Belarus: Catalyzing Positive Change in the Geographic Center of Europe, took place on March 25, tying in events in Ukraine. It was co-sponsored by JBANC, Freedom House, and the Belarusan-American Association, in cooperation with the U.S. Helsinki Commission.