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In February, JBANC launched a new initiative to help inform Members of Congress on the security issues of the Baltic countries and to invite them to join the House Baltic Caucus.

JBANC has drafted a letter you can send to your Congressman to invite him/her join the House Baltic Caucus. Please find the letter available to download here (Print and fill it by hand) and here  (fill it out in Word and print). Also, have a look at the example letter here. All you have to do is follow these simple steps listed on our website.
We realize there are many news compilations about the regional (Baltics, U.S.-Russian relations, transatlantic issues, etc.) circulating every day, it is inevitable to feel overwhelmed. JBANC is here to help you out. Each Friday on our website we will publish a short compilation of key stories and the most important news about regional issues that are close to our hearts.
 
We hope you will find this initiative useful and that you will make it a habit to visit our blog each Friday. Please enjoy!
Pentagon introduces FY 2017 defense budget request, including increased funding for deterrence measures in Baltics
 
The Administration announced on February 2 an FY2017 Department of Defense funding request of $3.4 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI). This request, which quadruples last year’s ERI funding level, represents a significant augmentation of U.S. efforts to ensure peace and security in Europe. Over the past two years, the United States has increased military activities in Central and Eastern Europe to reassure allies and partners of the U.S. commitment to their security and territorial integrity. 
           
Under the ERI, the U.S. has increased its military presence in Europe; conducted additional bilateral and multilateral exercises; improved U.S. and allied military infrastructure in Europe; prepositioned more U.S. equipment in Europe; and intensified efforts to build the capacity and interoperability of allies and partners. ERI has provided funding for Operation Atlantic Resolve, by which U.S. forces have maintained a persistent air, maritime, and ground presence in Central and Eastern Europe. 

The countries that will see continuous rotations are, thus far, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and the Baltics. However, prepositioned stock will likely be stored in facilities in countries like Germany because the infrastructure, dating back to the Cold War, is already there. The Army is looking at rotations beginning on Oct. 1. Another unit will arrive in April 2017. The service is still identifying what unit will deploy first.

In addition to ERI funding, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defense ministers on February 10 began outlining plans for a complex web of small eastern outposts, forces on rotation, regular war games, and warehoused equipment ready for a rapid-response force. That force includes air, maritime, and special operations units of up to 40,000 personnel.
  
Read more on ERI from an article put together by JBANC: http://jbanc.org/?page=blog&v=3&id=38
Nikolajs Timrots
JBANC Election Year Update – February 2016
 
As 2016 begins, with an invigorating presidential campaign season in full swing and the 114th Session of Congress in its second year, our Baltic-American communities have ample opportunities to help stand up and speak out for our interests. This is first and foremost to emphasize the security and defense of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as we witness an ever-threatening Putin regime in the Kremlin.
  
In addition to this year’s presidential campaign, the entire U.S. House of Representatives is up for re-election, along with one-third of the Senate. We are now at the beginning of an intense primary season. It is an important time and great opportunity to get involved. It’s a great time to give our input and feedback to our nation’s elected officials, as constituents and voters, in order for our message to get through. JBANC will continue to reach out to both the House and Senate, in helping to inform and educate our lawmakers about our concerns. Reaching out to the presidential campaigns is also a main focus for us this year. In our monthly newsletter, and on Twitter and Facebook, we’ve been posting the comments and positions of the presidential candidates as they concern the Baltic countries, and Ukraine, and Russia. You can see past newsletter issues here: http://jbanc.org/?m=5&p=1.
 
A good way to touch base with U.S. House members is regarding the Baltic Caucus. Thanks in part to our work on this, five Members have joined over the past few months – Representatives Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Ted Poe (R-TX), Bob Latta (R-OH), House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gregory Meeks (D-NY), and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). This brings Caucus membership to 53. We are expecting other members to join soon but need your help in reaching out and following up. Constituents connections are all-important in increasing solidarity between Congress, our communities, and the Baltic countries.

Read full article: http://jbanc.org/?page=blog&v=3&id=37 
Strikers arriving in Estonia
Rep. Adam Kinzinger joins the House Baltic Caucus

(Washington, DC) – The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) continues to engage with offices in the U.S. House to encourage Representatives to join the House Baltic Caucus. In February, the office of Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger announced that he would join the caucus, raising membership to 53. 
 
Representative Adam Kinzinger serves as the Representative for the Sixteenth Congressional District of Illinois and is a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. In addition, he served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee during the 113th Congress. As a member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, Kinzinger’s top priorities include strengthening U.S. energy policy and making our nation less reliant on foreign resources. Having served in the Air Force in both Iraq and Afghanistan, another priority for Kinzinger is national security. Kinzinger continues to serve his country as a pilot in the Air National Guard, balancing his service with his busy schedule as a Member of Congress. Kinzinger is a member of the House delegation to NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA). 
 
During his time in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) sponsored H.Res. 758, a resolution condemning Russia for its policy of political, economic, and military aggression against neighboring countries. The legislation called on Russia to reverse its illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and remove its military forces and equipment from Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. Additionally, H.Res. 758 encouraged NATO allies and U.S. partners in Europe to suspend all military cooperation with Russia. The resolution passed the House 411 votes to 10. 

JBANC welcomes Congressman Kinzinger to the Caucus and thanks him for advancing U.S.-Baltic relations and democratic values!
 

Coalition of heritage communities condemns Russia aggression in Syria -- Calls for determined U.S. response
 

(Washington, DC) - In response to the continued Russian bombardment of Aleppo, Syria, which has killed thousands of civilians and displaced over 70,000 civilians, and the continued Russian aggression, threats, and provocations in Ukraine, Turkey, and the Baltic countries, a coalition of heritage communities in the United States on February 16th sent a letter to American leaders condemning the Russian aggression, and calling for a stronger U.S. response.

The letter was submitted to President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker, and the remaining presidential candidates.

The coalition includes eleven organizations including the largest Syrian American, Ukrainian American, Turkish American, and Baltic American organizations in the United States along with Libyan American, Circassian American, and Crimean American organizations. A full list of organizations can be found below.

The coalition letter calls for a number of measures to be taken by the United States including a safe zone in Syria to protect civilians, increased arming and training of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, expelling Russia from the international SWIFT code system, a permanent NATO presence in the Baltics, and standing by and supporting NATO-ally Turkey.

“Americans of Baltic heritage are horrified at the stories and pictures coming out of Syria, and particularly of Aleppo of late” said Karl Altau of the Joint Baltic American National Committee. “This is Putin's pattern - against Georgia, Ukraine and Crimea, and now Syria. What Putin's regime is currently perpetrating against the Syrian people, in bloody partnership with the brutal Assad regime, is condemned by our communities in the strongest terms,” he added.

The full press release and coalition letter can be found here: http://jbanc.org/?page=blog&v=4&id=52

Baltic embassies met with Baltic-American organizations
 
 
During the first week of February, the Embassy of Estonia hosted an informational meeting between the embassies of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and JBANC and Baltic-American organizations. The discussions focused on current foreign policy issues, security policy, the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw, and the situation in Ukraine.
 

These meetings are held a number of times a year, as a platform to better discuss developments and share information on hot topics.
 
Present were Ambassador Eerik Marmei, DCM Marki Tihhonova-Kreek and Kristjan Kuurme from the Estonian Embassy, Ambassador Andris Razans and DCM Ilmars Breidaks from the Latvian Embassy, Eveline Petrone from the Lithuanian Embassy, Peteris Blumbergs, Raits Eglitis, Ausma Tomsevics and Ilze Garoza from the American Latvian Association, Marju Rink-Abel and Karin Shuey from the Estonian American National Council, Henry Gaidis, Stan Bakaitis, Tomas Sadauskas from the Lithuanian American Council, and Karl Altau and Karoline Kelder from JBANC.
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