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                                                              E-Newsletter: August 25, 2017
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Commemorating Black Ribbon Day on August 23

On August 23, 1939, Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Nazi Germany pledged mutual non-aggression through the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (MRP). In their illicit bilateral negotiations, they divided up the Central and Eastern European nations. Just over a week later, Hitler invaded Poland and World War II began. Stalin reciprocated by invading Poland just over two weeks later. During their almost two-year partnership of evil, both the Soviets and Nazis moved greedily and supported each other’s military efforts to bring the rest of Europe to its knees. 

Every year we pay respects to the people who suffered under these totalitarian regimes. 

This year, the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) together with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and dozens of representatives from various embassies, organizations, and communities gathered by to the memorial in Washington, DC to remember those victims. Ambassadors Tihomir Stoytchev from Bulgaria, Hynek Komoníček from the Czech Republic, László Szabó from Hungary, and Andris Teikmanis Latvia made remarks, all stressing the importance of making sure this never happens again. The embassies of Estonia, Lithuania, and Poland were also represented.

Czech ambassador Komoníček, pointing out that it is both an individual and collective responsibility to recognize evil and defend our principles, said that when "facing the devil you have to fight it." Ambassador Szabó agreed that we need to "be loud and clear that we don't commemorate with the far right or far left," while Ambassador Teikmanis added that "We can't and we shouldn't allow radical people to divide Europe."

In drawing attention to efforts to pass an official day of commemoration in the U.S., JBANC Managing Director Karl Altau remarked that "In the United States as well, this day should be recognized - we fought wars to defeat Nazism and communism...we need to renew our efforts to make sure a Black Ribbon Day becomes part of America's historical collective remembrance as well."

To read more about the importance of commemorating this day, please see the article published in the Dissident by Karl Altau and Julia Lazdins here
Summer of Advocating for the Baltics: The Campaign to Support the Russia Sanctions Bill

While this summer hasn’t been climatically the hottest, it’s been one of the steamiest with respect to advocating on Baltic issues. Much of the spring and summer was spent on pressuring Congress to pass the Russia sanctions bill. JBANC, together with its parent organizations the American Latvian Association, the Estonian American National Council, and the Lithuanian American Council, together with Baltic American Freedom League, Lithuanian American Community, and other partner organizations in wider networks, including the Central and East European Coalition, gave their best efforts to make the voices of our communities heard in Congress on this issue. 

A month after the Russia Sanctions bill was endorsed by the Senate by a vote of 98-2, the "Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act" (H.R. 3364) passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 25 by the overwhelming vote of 419-3. After changes in the text of the House bill, the Senate approved final passage of the legislation on the evening of July 27 and sent the package to the White House for signing. President Trump signed it into law on August 2.

To read more about the campaign to pass the Russia Sanctions bill, and advocating on Baltic issues, please visit the JBANC website here.  

 
JBANC meets with State Department

Together with our colleagues from the Estonian American National Council, American Latvian Association, and Lithuanian American Council, JBANC met with officials from the Department of State on Friday, August 11. The newly appointed Director of Nordic and Baltic Affairs, Ian Campbell, and desk officers for Latvia, James Lovell, and Lithuania, Carol Werner, shared their insights on policy and current and upcoming events relevant to U.S.-Baltic relationships.

One of the main topics discussed was the visit to Estonia by Vice President Mike Pence on July 30-31. In Tallinn, he addressed the three Baltic presidents and military troops from Estonia, the U.S., the United Kingdom, and France. 

Other topics discussed at the meeting at the State Department were the Russia sanctions bill, the upcoming Russian "Zapad" military exercises, and plans for next years Baltic centennial celebrations.

More information about the meeting can be can be found here in this summary by Karin Shuey. 

BAFF Leadership Academy students visit Washington, DC


On August 3, a group of over 30 Baltic American Freedom Foundation (BAFF) summertime Leadership Academy students and supervisors participated in briefings at the Lithuanian Embassy and the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington DC. For the fourth summer, JBANC helped organize and coordinate the DC events for the rising high school seniors from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Speakers at the Lithuanian embassy included Ambassador Rolandas Kriščiūnas, Kristjan Kuurme from the Embassy of Estonia, and Egils Leimanis from the Latvian Embassy. Other presenters were Karin Shuey from the Estonian American National Council, and Karl Altau and his JBANC colleagues Julia Lazdins and Anna Udre, who is JBANC's third BAFF Professional Intern Program intern. Denise Desrochers, Exchange Foundations Director with CIEE - the Council On International Educational Exchange - wrapped things up by thanking all the participants at the gathering. 

Following the meeting with the Baltic embassies, the Leadership Academy students visited the Victims of Communism Memorial, where they were briefed by representatives from the VOC Memorial Foundation, including chairman Dr. Lee Edwards, and VOCMF intern Krista Viksins, who was a JBANC intern in 2016.

BAFF provides a competitive scholarship as part of its mission to strengthen ties between the Baltic and United States and to invest in the development of young Baltic leaders and entrepreneurs.

To read more about the visit of the BAFF Leadership Academy visit to Washington, DC, please read here. Photos from the day's events are posted on Flickr.
 
Baltic Summer Internship in Congress: An Honor to Represent Latvia
Zane Kalniņa is currently studying international economics and diplomacy at the University of Latvia. This summer, she came to Washington DC for a two-month long internship with the office of Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL 15).

The office received an award as the best internship place by The Fund for American Studies. JBANC met with Zane to talk about her experiences and interning in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Pictured are Rep. Shimkus with Zane Kalniņa).

To read the full article about her experience in Congress click here.


Russia’s biggest war game in Europe since the cold war alarms NATO
September will be an edgy time for NATO’s front-line member states. For a week in the middle of the month, Russia will be running what is being described as the biggest military exercise in Europe since the end of the cold war. The build-up is already under way.

Zapad (“West”) exercises take place every four years and date from Soviet times, when they were used to test new weapons and tactics. Zapad 2017 is expected to involve at least 100,000 Russian troops. It will extend across the country’s Western Military District and Belarus, which has a border with three NATO members.


Click here to read the full article by the Economist.
Meet JBANC's second group of 2017 summer interns. We thank them for helping to advance the Baltic cause!


Julia Lazdins is a senior at High Point University in North Carolina, and she is studying International Relations and History. This was her second year at JBANC and she was excited to learn more about the legislative process and further her understanding of the issues facing Baltic-American constituents. Julia says that working at JBANC was a wonderful experience, and she was thrilled to have another opportunity to intern here.


Christopher Evans is a Latvian-American born and raised in northern Virginia. He is a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations.
Chris has long been involved in his local Latvian community, having spent many Sundays learning, working, and volunteering there. His mother is from Latvia, and his father an American with a lifelong career at the State Department.

Chris’ career and education plans have been greatly influenced by his upbringing. Other than following foreign affairs and U.S. politics, Chris enjoys spending his free time hiking and camping. Through his time at JBANC, Chris gained insight into how Baltic-Americans are represented politically and experienced working with congressional staff and political organizations on Capitol Hill.



Anna Udre has worked as a journalist for over four years in Latvia, including for the national radio and leading online media “Delfi,” mainly covering social, political and development-related issues. She is a recipient of a Baltic American Freedom Foundation scholarship and came to the U.S. in June 2017. 

Anna says that "Interning at the Joint Baltic American National Committee helps me develop other skills, such as lobbying and diplomacy. It’s overwhelming and exciting to see what’s happening behind the political scenes here, in DC. My goal here is to help build stronger relationships between the American Latvian community and the people living in Latvia. I couldn’t be happier about being here!"
 
For the past 56 years, JBANC has served as the primary advocacy organization representing Baltic-Americans in Washington, DC. As the Baltic countries near their centenary, we are reaching out to you to ask for help in assuring that the Baltic voice stays active and strong on Capitol Hill and with the Administration.
 
 
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