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JBANC was proud to celebrate its 55th anniversary at the Embassy of Estonia on May 17


JBANC was proud to celebrate its 55th anniversary at the Embassy of Estonia! Click here for photos of the event: https://www.flickr.com/photos/114460987@N06/

Video summary of the speeches by Estonian ambassador Eerik Marmei and president of JBANC Peteris Blumbergs: https://youtu.be/_8NECrwMQuA
 
House Foreign Affairs Committee approves Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act

On May 18, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved legislation targeting human rights abusers worldwide with sanctions modeled after the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law punishing with visa bans and asset freezes those Russians deemed by Washington to be rights violators.
 
It echoes the Magnitsky Act, which U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law in 2012 and which has infuriated the Putin regime. The Kremlin responded in 2012 by banning U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children, a move that rights activists and Western governments decried as a cruel form of blackmail that punishes orphans and disabled children.
JBANC president Peteris Blumberg's remarks to friends of the Baltics on the occasion of JBANC’s 55th anniversary reception

This year, the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) celebrates its 55th anniversary. On April 27, 1961, the Presidents of three Baltic American organizations met in Washington, DC to establish this new organization for Baltic cooperation. JBANC, as it came to be known, helped coalesce activities in Washington, DC, for the three national groups, becoming an effective advocacy force in the United States for the Baltic cause. 

Fifty-five years ago the world was a different place. We were in the midst of the Cold War and the Baltic peoples were suffering under the Soviet Russian regime. The non-recognition policy of the United States (the Welles Declaration) regarding the Soviet occupation and annexation of the three Baltic countries gave us encouragement to carry on our campaign. 

For JBANC’s first thirty years from 1961-1991, the main focus was to retain recognition of the exile Baltic governments and keep hopes alive for one day achieving the goal of seeing the Baltic countries independent again. JBANC helped inform U.S. policymakers on developments in the Soviet-occupied Baltics, and for the importance of standing up for this very important principle of non-recognition. 

Through the 1970s and 1980s, JBANC helped raise awareness of Baltic political prisoners and the Soviet Union’s continual transgressions against the Helsinki Act’s Declaration of Principles, particularly those having to do with human rights and the self-determination of peoples. The budding nationalist movements within the Baltic nations during the Gorbachev era gave rise to renewed hopes of freedom, and Baltic-Americans rose to the occasion during a multitude of actions and political rallies in support of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In 1991, freedom and independence were at long last regained by the Baltic countries whose steadfast, unyielding drive for sovereignty was a major cause of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 

This did not spell the end of JBANC and the “Baltic lobby” in the United States. One key issue was securing the peaceful withdrawal of the Russian armed forces from the Baltics in 1993-1994. That was followed by a nearly ten-year campaign to help bring the Baltic countries into NATO in 2004. Without the underlying political support of that effort in the U.S., that would have been a tougher sell. JBANC’s efforts were crucial in that effort. 

Other key areas of focus for JBANC since then have centered on human rights, democracy building, energy security, defending against Russian propaganda and disinformation, and helping support regional issues in the Central and Eastern European neighborhood, such as helping Ukraine push back against Moscow’s continuing military invasion. We need to be up to today’s challenges in light of Russia’s increasing threats and aggression. 

For Americans of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian descent, JBANC remains a central place for information and policies affecting the Baltic countries and for conveying the concerns of the Baltic-American community to Congress, the White House and other U.S. government agencies. 

We wish to thank the Estonian American National Council, the American Latvian Association, and the Lithuanian American Council for their generous support of JBANC for over half a century, and wish JBANC continued success in its future endeavors! 
Top left: JBANC's Karl Altau and Karoline Kelder, and Karin Shuey of the Estonian American National Council are pictured.pictured with Ryan Canfield (Legislative Director for Appropriations committee chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY)); Bottom left: pictured with Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA); Right: pictured with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), at Georgian Association anniversary reception.

 

Karin Shuey, Washington DC Director for the Estonian American National Council (EANC) gives an overview of pending legislation on issues of importance to the Baltic-American community

Stability and Democracy (STAND) for Ukraine Act (H.R. 5094) – Introduced in April by Representatives Engel (D-NY) and Kinzinger (R-IL), and supported by a bipartisan group of 14 additional members, this bill clarifies the U.S. position of non-recognition of Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, tightens sanctions on Russia, and promotes new support for Ukraine. 

Countering Information Warfare Act (S.2692) – Introduced by Senators Portman (R-OH) and Murphy (D-CT) in March. This bill targets deliberate disinformation campaigns by several countries, including Russia and China, to undermine U.S. interests and Western values here and overseas. 

Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016 (H.R. 5181) – Representatives Kinzinger (R-IL) and Lieu (D-CA) introduced this companion bill to S.2692 in early May, along with 10 additional cosponsors. This legislation centers on a comprehensive strategy to fight disinformation through an interagency approach. 

Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (S.284/H.R.624) – This bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators Cardin (D-MD) and McCain (R-AZ) and was passed in December 2015. The original Magnitsky Act, which became law in 2012, was aimed specifically at the Russian officials responsible for the death of Kremlin critic Sergei Magnitsky. The global bill broadens its scope to target human rights violators from any country by restricting their financial assets and freedom of movement to the U.S. 

European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) – This is part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R. 4909), which is currently in process. It passed in the House on May 18th and should complete Senate consideration in the next couple months. NDAA generally receives broad bipartisan support and is expected to pass over the summer.

Also important is to connect with Congress via the House Baltic Caucus. If you are interested in becoming a contact person in your community for outreach, please feel free to let us know!

Link to the full 
article: http://jbanc.org/?page=blog&v=3&id=52

JBANC Statement on the Anniversary of the 1944 Crimean Tatar Deportation

On May 18, the Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) and Americans of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian heritage, stand alongside the Crimean Tatar people in remembering their deportations to Central Asia in 1944.
These events are particularly important to recall in the midst of new persecutions of the native Crimean Tatar population by the Russian Federation. Once again, a belligerent Moscow is violating the rights of the Crimean Tatars – including that of their culture and heritage, while occupying their land as part of Ukraine. Since the invasion of Crimea, the Russian Federation has banned commemorative activities, taken aim at dismantling the Mejlis (the representative body) of the Crimean Tatars, and arrested young Tatars by the score.

Press release: 
http://jbanc.org/?page=blog&v=4&id=53 

EVENT in Washington, DC on May 26th, 10am at Wilson Center: 
Film Screening: "A Struggle for Home: The Crimean Tatars" 

https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/film-screening-struggle-for-home-the-crimean-tatars 
JBANC Board Member Nikolajs Timrots gives overview of Baltic-American advocacy at annual American Latvian Association Congress

The 65th annual American Latvian Association (ALA) Congress was held April 29th to May 1st in Glendale, CA. As a first-time attendee, it was an honor to help represent the Washington, D.C. congregation. Also representing JBANC as a board member, I gave a brief update to attendees about all of the progress JBANC has made in the last year, including new additions to the Congressional Baltic Caucuses, participation in numerous meetings and seminars, and the 55th JBANC anniversary.
Naturally, one of the hottest topics throughout the conference was the security of the Baltics. Fighting Russian aggression and disinformation found its way into many of the sessions throughout the weekend. Outgoing Ambassador of Latvia to the United States Andris Razans was also in attendance, speaking about this topic, the future of Latvia and its international relations, and praising American Latvians for being some of the best external supporters of Latvia and Latvians around the world. Attendees were treated to a Latvian language showing of Re:Baltica’s The Master Plan movie, an investigative documentary on Russian influence of domestic policy of the Baltic States.

A highlight of the weekend was the adoption of two new ALA resolutions: 1) To help JBANC as much as reasonably possible, which at first may not sound like much, but leaves the door open for anything from moral to financial support, and 2) To help ALA members write letters to their Congressmen, regarding topics such as joining Congressional Baltic Caucuses or helping fight Russian aggression. Several guest presenters spoke about various topics: Upkeep of Latvian archives at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, progress on (and roadblocks to) the expansion of Riga’s Museum of the Occupation in Latvia, and a discussion on how diasporans can be a boon to Latvia’s well-being. Other hot topics included the upcoming 2017 Latvian Song and Dance Festival of America in Baltimore, as well as the multitude of events around the world leading up to Latvia’s 100th birthday in November 2018. Next year’s Congress will be held in Chicago, IL.
Developments regarding countering Russian disinformation:
CEPA launches Infowar innitiative, and an investigative documentary about Russian disinformation in the Baltics is screened at Heritage Foundation
Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) Information Warfare Initiative is an innovative, on-the-ground effort to monitor, collate, analyze, rebut and expose Russian disinformation in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Led by CEPA Senior Vice President Edward Lucas and Peter Pomerantsev of The Legatum Institute, the program also aims to assist policymakers in advancing transatlantic efforts to develop a comprehensive and effective strategy to counter Russian disinformation in the CEE region.

Check out the website: 
http://infowar.cepa.org/index/
 

An investigative documentary The Master Plan analyzes the Russian government’s propaganda war in Europe, as particularly waged in the Baltics, to destabilize Western social and political institutions there. Tactics explored include spreading disinformationon current and historical events, promoting bogus NGOs and funding political figures aligned with Moscow.

The Master Plan is a joint production of Re:Baltica – The Baltic Center for Investigative Journalism, Mistrus Media (Latvia), Monoklis (Lithuania) and Allfilm (Estonia) film studios.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/157547750

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