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JBANC Reaches out to Congress to Urge Support for Ukraine and the Baltics

Together with members of the Ukrainian-American community, JBANC met with Congressman Tim Walberg to discuss U.S. support for Ukraine's fight against Russian aggression.  Left to right: Karl Altau, Kara Nordness, Erik Lazdins, Rep. Tim Walberg, Katya Sedova, Michael Sawkiw. 

During the month of July, JBANC delivered letters to the House and the Senate in support of the United States providing military weapons for Ukraine in its hour of need. In addition, the letters urged continued support for the Baltic countries against the increasing threats by Russia. In its letters, JBANC urged that the provisions of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act be implemented, and that support be given for a bill supporting the non-recognition for the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federatio. JBANC is also pushing for passage of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which would sanction human rights violators. JBANC interns Kara Nordness and Erik Lazdins met with foreign affairs staffers from Representatives Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Bill Huizenga's (R-MI) offices to discuss the opportunity for the two to join the Baltic Caucus.

On July 15, JBANC demonstrated solidarity with our Ukrainian friends by participating in an Advocacy Day organized by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. During the day, JBANC engaged in a discussions with Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI), and staff of House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) on the topic of U.S. military aid for Ukraine, and continued support for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

At the conclusion of the Advocacy Day, a reception was held in the Rayburn House Office Building. A number of members of Congress participated at the event, including Representatives Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Sander Levin (D-M), David Cicciline (D-RI), and Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA). Kaptur, Levin, and Cicciline are members of the House Baltic Caucus. JBANC also met with Ukrainian Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko during the event. 
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New JBANC President


 
Peter Blumberg became President of the Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) in May, 2015, taking over from Anita Batarags, the immediate prior President of the American Latvian Association (ALA) and JBANC.
 
Blumberg was born and raised in Chicago, and received a Latvian education at the Krisjanis Barons School in Chicago and the summer high school program at Garezers (Three Rivers), Michigan. He earned a B.S. degree in Economics at the University of Illinois and a JD with honors at DePaul University in Chicago, where he was the editor of DePaul Law Review. He is a practicing attorney.
 
From 1997 to 2003, Blumberg was member of the Board of ALA, serving as deputy chairman and head of the ALA information office. In carrying out these duties, Peter’s main focus was to work for Latvia’s admittance to the NATO Alliance.
 
From 2003 to 2010, Peter was an ALA representative to JBANC, and for two years was JBANC's chairman. As JBANC chairman, Peter participated at the NATO Summit in 2006 in Riga.
 
Over the last six years Peter has been the chairman of ALA’s annual meeting.
 
From 1999 to 2003, Peter was a board member of the World Federation of Free Latvians (WFFL), leading its information work group. He was the group’s chairman during the important period of Latvia’s NATO membership campaign.
 
CEEC Holds Successful Advocacy Day
 
At the office of Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). Karl Altau (JBANC), McKenzie Clark (office of Sen. Capito), Les Megyeri, Ausma Tomsevics, Agnia Grigas, Mamuka Tsereteli.

On April 16, JBANC helped organize a successful Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) Advocacy Day. Sixteen meetings were held, involving about 25 participants - a few of them were attendees at the JBANC conference. Substantial contacts were established for future follow up meetings. The CEEC has updated its Policy Paper on its website: http://ceecoalition.us. These issues are important for also getting the views of the Baltic American community known, and for communicating with Congress.

Close JBANC cooperation with CEEC continues. The Coalition meets regularly with congressional contacts, U.S. administration officials, and members of the policy and think tank community in Washington, DC.
 
JBANC 2015 Conference Summary

The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) held its 11th Baltic security conference, entitled “History Repeated: Baltics and Eastern Europe in Peril?” on April 17-18, 2015 in Washington, DC. It was certainly one of the most successful and timely conferences held by JBANC.

SEE FULL SUMMARY HERE
 
Meeting with Anne Applebaum at the Center for European Policy and Analysis (CEPA) in Washington, DC on July 29. Left to right: Erik Lazdins, Kara Nordness, Anne Applebaum, and Karl Altau.

JBANC Summer Staff Update

The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) has been joined this summer by Erik Lazdins and Kara Nordness, who are engaged in all aspects of the work of the organization. Erik joins courtesy of a summer stipend provided by the American Latvian Association. JBANC also acknowledges the kind intern support provided by Dr. Paulis Lazda of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  

Erik Lazdins is currently a summer intern at JBANC. He is a Latvian-American residing in Brinklow, Maryland, and originally hailing from Grand Haven, Michigan. He has actively participated in the Latvian-American community, and was enrolled at the Latvian Center Garezers’ summer high school program where he studied Latvian language, history, and culture for four years. He is a recent graduate with a B.S. in political science from Grand Valley State University. In the fall semester of 2014, Erik worked at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as a media and communications intern in Washington D.C.

During his summer internship with JBANC, Erik has met with foreign affairs staffers in the House of Representatives to help to expand the Baltic Caucus, and educated members of Congress on issues important to Baltic-Americans. The issues include the non-recognition of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, co-sponsoring the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, and clarifying the need to provide arms to Ukraine in order to combat Russian aggression. Erik has also distributed hundreds of letters to both the Senate and House about these issues. He helps maintain a social media presence for JBANC, co-operating our Facebook page, website, newsletter, blog, and Twitter account.

In the future, Erik aspires to work in the field of politics and foreign policy in Washington D.C. He is particularly interested in defense issues regarding NATO and the United States’ roles in pacifying an increasingly aggressive Russian Federation. 

Kara Nordness is from Wisconsin and attends college at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She is a history major and religious studies minor and will be graduating in December of 2015. Though she is not of Baltic descent, she is considered an “honorary Latvian” due to her work with Dr. Paulis Lazda at UW-Eau Claire. After college, Kara will be moving to Brussels, Belgium and will be pursuing a job in one of the government agencies there.

While working as an intern at JBANC this summer, Kara has helped in delivering letters to Congress and the Senate. These letters expressed concern with Russia’s continued presence and aggression in Ukraine, the need for economic, military, and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, and also listed legislation that still need co-sponsors. The legislation included H.R. 93, the non-recognition of the annexation of Crimea and The Global Magnitsky Act. She has met with foreign affairs staffers including from her congressional district in order to discuss these concerns and inform them about the legislation and joining the Baltic Caucus. In August, Kara will start to work on organizing archival documents in order to prepare for the 55th anniversary of JBANC. 

JBANC has also benefited from the contributions of Alise Krapane and Kristina Van Sant, who both recently interned with JBANC. Kristina was with JBANC from September 2014 to April 2015. Alise came on board in February 2015, and departed back to her native Latvia in July. She aided tremendously during the planning and organization of JBANC’s April conference and in outreach with the NGO communities during her time at the organization. Kristina has been working this summer for CBS News in London.
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