E-Newsletter: February 1, 2021
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Baltic Advocacy Week March 8-12

Registration deadline is February 15

For the past three years, the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) with support from its parent organizations: the American Latvian Association, the Estonian American National Council 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 and staff and to voice their concerns over issues relevant to the Baltics. 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in-person meetings will not be 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 of March 8-12, and there is limited space for attendance, so we urge you to register promptly by February 15th. 

We ask that you sign up through the Baltivist advocacy site here:

There you will also find valuable resources to aid in preparation but we also will be sending out informational one-pagers on the issues and leave-behind documents. In addition, Baltivist will be providing training the week before the event. 

More details to follow! 

If you have any questions, contact

Due to the fact that these are official meetings with congressional offices, we ask that you sign up responsibly. If you register but then realize you can not attend please email in a timely fashion so that we can take that into account. Thank you!

New Online Platform Looks at the Baltic Journey to NATO


The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) has launched a new online platform The Baltic Journey to NATO: Exploring the role of civil society, diaspora, governments, and media, which highlights the milestones of the events that led to a successful NATO enlargement and membership for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The project is supported by a NATO Public Diplomacy Division grant. The site is accessible at:

The exhibit features a timeline of key dates and events that led to the Baltic inclusion into NATO in 2004 and explores a variety of decisions made by the Baltic and the U.S. governments. It also provides an in-depth look at the role of civil society and Baltic-American organizations such as JBANC, and how they played a vital part in the process of enlargement. The timeline provides plenty of historic records – photos, documents, and media pieces.

For instance, some of the historic records include letters to and from the U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Records also demonstrate the persistent activity of the Baltic-American community, which actively communicated with members of the U.S. Congress, and in organizing events and mobilizing support for NATO enlargement.

“Ten years of hard work in advocacy for the Baltic-American community culminated in an inevitably successful ratification vote in the U.S. Senate in 2003 and accession to the North Atlantic alliance in 2004. Those were events and lessons that should not be forgotten,” highlights Karl Altau, Managing Director of JBANC.

The goal of the platform is to promote and expand the knowledge of NATO enlargement within the public in the United States and other transatlantic community countries, promoting NATO as a cornerstone in ensuring the safety of the transatlantic community, and highlighting how the admission of the Baltic countries made the transatlantic community more vital and prosperous. The exhibit hopefully serves as a reflection of the importance of NATO back then and provides lessons for the future, particularly in dealing with newer threats in such areas as cyber security and disinformation.

We thank @NATO's Public Diplomacy Division for support! #StrongerTogether #WeAreNATO

Belarus update

175+ days of continuous protests

January 30th was the 175th day of non-stop citizen protests since the fraudulent election of August 9 in Belarus. The Lukashenka regime continues arrests and incarcerations of peaceful protestors and there are reports of World War II-style internment camps being set up. Tens of thousands of arrests by the regime have been made, and now there are over 200 recognized political prisoners. Cases of abuse and torture by officials abound. 

The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) encourages individuals to support the people of Belarus by demonstrating on February 7 during the Day of Solidarity with Belarus. More details forthcoming on JBANC's channels. The event will mark the half-year point of the protests in that country. 

The Atlantic Council held a January 27 discussion on "Biden and Belarus: A strategy for the new administration" to highlight its report on the topic. The paper "examines U.S. interests, the domestic situation in Belarus, Moscow’s dilemma, and the many ways the West can influence the situation." 

The United States Senate passed the Belarus Democracy, Human Rights, and Sovereignty Act of 2020 on December 21. More on the details of the Act can be found here. The Act was included in H.R. 133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the 2021 Omnibus Appropriations and COVID-19 bill), and signed into law by President Trump on December 27.

In another recent development, the World Ice Hockey Championships, scheduled for this summer in Belarus, have been taken away from Lukashenka. They may be held in Latvia instead. 

#StandWithBelarus    #FreeBelarus    #SolidarityWithBelarus   

EU Adopts Magnitsky Sanctions Regime

Foreign Ministers of the European Union agreed on December 7, 2020, to moving forward with plans to establish a sanctions regime against human rights violators. The move would "target individuals, entities and bodies -- including state and nonstate actors -- responsible for, involved in or associated with serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide, no matter where they occurred," said the Council of the EU in a statement

The new system which foresees both asset freezes and visa bans officially came into effect on Human Rights Day on December 10. More on the story here.

JBANC applauds this news and will follow developments and implementation of Magnitsky laws both in the United States and abroad. It keeps informed on new actions related to the Global Magnitsky Act in its work with an international coalition of like-minded non-governmental organizations. 

Baltic Security Initiative now part of NDAA
In her summary for the Estonian American National Council, DC Director Karin Shuey writes about the significance of having the Baltic Security Initiative included as part of the annual United States military spending bill. 

"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.”

As Karin Shuey continues: "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."

JBANC will continue advocating for robust funding for security cooperation programs benefiting the U.S.-Baltic relationship. This includes the Baltic Security Initiative. 

Antony Blinken confirmed as Secretary of State 



The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held a hearing on January 19 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 CEEC’s questions covered a range of policy issues that the Secretary of State was 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  

Mr. Blinken was confirmed by the Senate on January 26, 2021, as the United States Secretary of State.

Thanks to Karin Shuey of EANC for the comprehensive write-up here

JBANC interview with Lithuanian film director Karolis Kaupinis

JBANC’s contributing writer Willa Davis recently interviewed Lithuanian writer-filmmaker Karolis Kaupinis.  Kaupinis provides insight into his most recent film, Nova Lituania, which has been picked as Lithuania’s candidate for the best foreign film Oscar nomination.  He also touches upon his background in politics, career in film, and the similarities that can be detected between contemporary and interwar Lithuania.

A trailer of the film can be seen here
Transcript of interview is here.

Diptych of Vytautas Augustinas’ original photo of interwar Lithuanian President Antanas Smetona and a shot from Karolis Kaupinis’ film Nova Lituania Photo Credit: Karolis Kaupinis

Additional Photo Credit: Square Eye Films

Former JBANC'er Krista Viksnins sworn in as licensed attorney in Minnesota

Krista Viksnins graduated from law school this past May, passed the Minnesota bar exam, and is now a licensed attorney. She is a Latvian-American and a Minnesota native. She is passionate about Baltic and international issues. She interned with JBANC during the summer of 2016 and has since worked in Congress and for several NGOs in Washington DC. She hopes to return to Washington DC permanently once the pandemic is over.

Krista was sworn in on November 9, 2020 by Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Anne McKeig, and carries on her family’s legacy as a fourth-generation lawyer. 

Congratulations from the JBANC family to Krista! 

Latvian and Lithuanian youth organizations make
connections through Zoom

On January 23 and 24, members of both the American Latvian Youth Organization (ALJA), Latvian Canadian Youth Organization (LNJAK) invited the respective Lithuanian Youth Organizations of Canada (Kanados Lietuviu Jaunimo. Sajunga/KLJS) and the U.S. (JAV Lietuviu Jaunimo Sajunga/JAV-LJS), for virtual happy hours and to get better acquainted.

[From the LNJAK & KLJS happy hour on the 23rd]

On the 23rd, LNJAK met with KLJS via Zoom with a couple of ALJA members in a monthly event they call “Satikšanās” (“meeting” or “hangout”). We introduced ourselves, shared stories of the worst mispronunciations of our names, and played a word game guessing the meaning of words in both Latvian and Lithuanian. In total 28 people participated but in many screens there were more than two people.

[From the LNJAK & KLJS happy hour on the 23rd]

On the 24th, the ALJA board met with the JAV-LJS board. Due to the success of LNJAK’s happy hour, ALJA borrowed some of the same icebreakers in addition to a brief show-and-tell of Baltic items. In total 23 people participated but again some screens had more people present. It was exciting to start making connections between youth groups to hopefully plan future events both virtually and eventually in-person! Ačiū and paldies to everyone who participated! 

[From the ALJA & JAV-LJS  happy hour on the 24th]

-Contributed by Madelena Miniats 

For nearly 60 years, JBANC has served in Washington, DC as the primary information and advocacy organization representing Baltic-Americans. Our actions have helped raise awareness and achieve positive results for Baltic security and democracy, such as advancing military cooperation for the region, keeping sanctions in place against the Putin and Lukashenka regimes, and supporting the fight against disinformation.

Your donation today can help us to remain as active and effective as possible in helping to promote the cause of Americans of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian heritage. We ask for your help in assuring that the Baltic voice stays active and strong on Capitol Hill and with the Administration. Please consider a donation to help in our mission. Thank you!

*Please note that donations to JBANC, as a 501c4 organization, are not deductible for federal income tax purposes as charitable contributions. 

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