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                                                                  E-Newsletter: June 30, 2020
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JBANC statement on the proposed U.S. troop withdrawal from Germany

The recent Administration proposal to significantly scale back American troops in Germany by 25 percent raises several concerns. The reduction of our troops based in Germany would not only curtail the United States’ operational military presence in Europe but sends a message that the U.S. is not keeping up with its commitments to its NATO allies.

As a non-partisan organization, the Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) believes in and advocates for robust transatlantic relations, not just between the United States and the Baltic countries but with all of our NATO allies. America’s commitment to its NATO allies is fundamental to ensuring its own security. JBANC urges the Administration to reaffirm its support of all NATO allies and to reconsider the proposed move.

Read the full statement here.

Marking the anniversaries of June 1940 occupation and June 1941 deportations


In June 2020, we marked 80 years since the tragic events between June 15-17, 1940, when the Baltic countries were occupied by the Soviet Union and lost their independence. The sacrifice, bravery and hope of the people of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, eventually led to their regaining independence half a century later.



The victims of communism were also honored on June 12, when the 13th Annual Roll Call of Nations Ceremony took place, organized by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Ambassadors Jonatan Vseviov of Estonia, Maris Selga of Latvia, and Rolandas Kriščiūnas of Lithuania, participated in the online commemoration, along with Karin Shuey, DC Director of the Estonian American National Council. The Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, their embassies in U.S. and Baltic-American communities have been very active and supportive of the efforts of the Foundation.
EANC Tracking Issues in the News

The Estonian American National Council's Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey shares in her most recent blog post key issues which are also being followed by JBANC. Among the updates are a look at "the Kremlin’s revisionist disinformation campaign kicking into high gear around Russia’s June 24th Victory Day parade and other World War II anniversaries.  The most significant event was the introduction of legislation in the Russian Duma that, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, would “revoke a December 24, 1989, resolution by the Soviet Union’s Supreme Council that condemned the nonaggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.”



You can read more in the update here
NDAA FY2021 update and new Baltic initiative

Work on this year’s National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 began in June with the first mark-ups in the Senate starting on June 8. The bill, S.4049, was filed on June 23. More information here.
 
The summary states, among other things, that the bill “fully funds the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) and increases funding to support rotational forces in Europe.” However, with the Administration’s requested $1.5 billion in cuts to the program in the FY21 budget, it is not yet clear where the discrepancies lie. This is part of a section with a major emphasis on “Prioritizing Strategic Competition with China and Russia.”

This week, there has also been an effort in the Senate to include an amendment to the bill which would express a sense of Congress to “pursue a dedicated initiative focused on defense and security assistance, coordination, and planning designed to ensure the continued security of the Baltic states and on deterring current and future challenges to the national sovereignty of United States allies and partners in the Baltic region…”

The amendment was introduced by Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus co-chairmen Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), with co-sponsors and caucus colleagues Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). As of yet, the amendment has not yet been included in the bill.

Debate on the NDAA continues, with the House soon scheduled to take up the bill. JBANC will continue to work to ensure that this, and other measures to support U.S. national security and a strong U.S.-Baltic relationship are included.  
Bipartisan Bill Expands Sanctions on Nord Stream 2 Pipeline
 
On June 25, Congressmen Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Denny Heck (D-WA), Mike Turner (R-OH), and Ruben Gallego (R-AZ) - all members of the House Baltic Caucus - introduced legislation that would clarify and expand sanctions on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

This legislation extends sanctions already placed on the pipeline project through the NDAA provision, H.R. 3206, which was signed into law on December 20, 2019. As such, the bill is titled the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Clarification Act of 2020 and its bipartisan support includes the following original cosponsors: Representatives Steve Womack (R-AR), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rob Bishop (R-UT), Dean Philips (D-MN), and Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

The bill number is H.R.7361. A Senate companion bill (S.3897) is being led across the Chamber by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

U.S. Congressional Research Service report
on the Three Seas Initiative



The U.S. Congressional Research Service has reported on the Three Seas Initiative (3SI), concluding that the objectives of the initiative "align with a number of broad U.S. security and economic goals."

The 3SI is structured as a flexible platform for generating funding and promoting deeper cooperation among its participating countries; one overarching goal is to develop a north-south infrastructure corridor in the region.

Read the full report here.

Baltic Youth survey

Back in November, before COVID, JBANC held its Baltic Advocacy Day. At the Advocacy Day, as well as at the EANC conference, the attendance of Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian youths were outnumbered by the older generations.

Since then it has occurred to me that it is unclear how youths view Baltic advocacy. What questions do they have? What about advocacy do they find important? What would help them to be more engaged politically within their communities? To answer these burning questions, I believe it would be beneficial to conduct an essay of Baltic youth advocacy to determine where they stand and to better prepare JBANC for future advocacy days. Furthermore, each community can also better understand what Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian communities can do to engage future generations.

To conduct the survey, I would utilize Google Forms, which would make the survey easily distributable. The survey would target young adults between ages 18-25. I have already spoken to representatives from all communities and the interest is there. 

For more information, please contact Madelena Miniats at: mminiats@gmail.com

Image: A statue called 'Medics To The World' by sculptor Aigars Bikse has been unveiled in Latvia in tribute to all health professionals ( EPA/Valda Kalnina ). In The Independent. 

Madelena Miniats joins JBANC team



We're happy to introduce and welcome Madelena Miniats to the JBANC summer team!

Originally born and raised in NYC, Madelena graduated from Bard College in May 2019 with an international relations degree and wrote her undergraduate thesis on Russia's use of cyber warfare in Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine. Having grown up in the thick of the American-Latvian community, her life has been largely centered around being involved in the community. Two consecutive summers, she interned in Latvia, at Transparency International - Delna and as an assistant to journalist Ansis Bogustovs. Looking back this trajectory somehow led her to JBANC. After participating in JBANC’s Baltic Advocacy Day this past November, she realized that she wanted to continue to be involved in Baltic advocacy. She’s excited to start this new chapter having just moved to DC and work at JBANC!

  

JBANC shares perspectives on the U.S. protests



On June 11, the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation (BAFF) held a virtual panel discussion “Building Bridges,” with a goal to build and maintain links and cooperation between the Baltic countries and the United States.  The first panel discussion was dedicated to the current situation in the U.S. and the Black Lives Matter movement. JBANC was represented by our current team member Eduards Ozoliņš, who is here on a BAFF scholarship. The discussion was moderated by our former team member Anna Ūdre, and participants included Rodney E. Slater (BAFF BOD, former Secretary of Transportation in the President Clinton Administration) and Ambassador Michael C. Polt (BAFF BOD, Senior Director at the McCain Institute).

During the demonstrations earlier this month, Eduards also shared his views of the protest movement on the Latvian Television prime time news broadcast "Panorāma." See the story here (in Latvian).

JBANC stands in solidarity with all peaceful protesters in the U.S. and around the world.


Cyberwarfare in Latvia: A Call for New Cyberwarfare Terminology

Former JBANC team member Krista Viksnins had an article published on June 23rd in the Foreign Policy Research Institute's (FRPI) "Baltic Bulletin," which gives an overview of some of the Latvia's cybersecurity challenges.

Find out more here.

JBANC holds virtual monthly board meeting

On June 24, JBANC Board held a virtual meeting to discuss the latest developments, such as our advocacy priorities, legislative updates, the upcoming 80th Welles Declaration anniversary. The annual rotation of the board from the Lithuanian American Council to Estonian American National Council also took place.


Stanley Balzekas Jr., founder of Lithuanian cultural museum in Chicago, passes away at 95


(Photo credits: Brian Jackson/Chicago Sun-Times file)

As noted in the Chicago Sun-Times, Stanley Balzekas, Jr., who died on June 18, dedicated his life to "preserving and promoting Lithuanian culture in America."

Stanley Balzekas was a well-known and a very active member of Lithuanian community in Chicago, who supported Lithuanian culture and identity, notably founding the Lithuanian cultural museum which bears his name, in an effort to advance the cause of Lithuanian independence. A remembrance on the Balzekas Museum website  states that "Chicago has lost a visionary civic and cultural leader, an entrepreneur, and a most original native son; the United States, a decorated war hero from the thinning ranks of the ‘Greatest Generation’; and Lithuania, Stanley’s beloved ancestral homeland, a loyal advocate."

Mr. Balzekas was, among his many positions, was also a long-time director on the board of the Lithuanian American Council, one of JBANC's parent organizations. 

Read the full article in the Chicago Sun-Times here.
For over 59 years, JBANC has served in Washington, DC as the primary information and advocacy organization representing Baltic-Americans. 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! 
 
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