Entries by Posted by Linda Rink (58)

Monday
Sep082014

JBANC letter to President Obama on the eve of his visit to Estonia to meet with Baltic leaders

August 31, 2014 
The President 
The White House 
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW 
Washington, DC 20500 

Dear Mr. President: 
The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC), representing Americans of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian heritage, appreciates the great significance of your visit to Estonia on September 3, 2014, and the meeting with the leaders of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This is all the more important given Russia’s escalating war against Ukraine, continued threats to the region, and the upcoming NATO Summit in Wales. 

This opportunity should be used to send a strong message to Vladimir Putin: that the United States and its NATO allies will not waver in their obligation to support and defend our Baltic allies in line with the NATO Charter and its commitments. A continued active and enduring NATO presence in the Baltics, with U.S. leadership, is absolutely critical. 

We, the U.S. citizens of Baltic extraction, are committed in supporting the turning back of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We applaud Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s visit to Washington on September 18 as a strong signal of support of the Ukrainian people in their struggle for freedom and independence. We also support the provision of necessary military arms and aid to Ukraine to help them in their fight with Russia to regain their territory. As the United States stood steadfast for half a century in never recognizing the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries, we must never recognize Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea, or any other territories he has or intends to take over. 

Additionally, France’s impending sale of Mistral assault ships to Russia should be strongly condemned, as it presents a grave potential threat to the region. The United States and its allies must continue to speak up firmly against this very unfortunate move, and should instead explore ways to procure these ships for NATO’s use. 

Implementation of the most severe sanctions against individuals in the Putin regime and critical sectors of the Russian economy are needed immediately. It is also imperative to beat Putin in the information war being waged right now, by exposing Moscow’s lies and presenting our values via competent and fully-funded U.S. international broadcasting. 

The success of the transatlantic relationship in the decades after the Second World War must not be undone by the treacherous and lawless imperial ambitions of the Putin regime. It is an outrage and tragedy that he is now replicating historical violence through the invasion of neighbors and the exports of xenophobia, hate, murder, and outright lies. Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and threats to the security of Central and Eastern Europe are stark reminders of his Soviet and Nazi predecessors. 

On August 23, on the anniversary of the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, we commemorated on “Black Ribbon Day” the victims of Soviet and Nazi aggression. These ruthless dictators divided Europe between themselves and began the Second World War, condemning many millions of innocent people to destruction and inhuman suffering. Half a century later, millions of hands were joined across Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in a nearly 400 mile human chain to demonstrate the people’s desire for the restoration of freedom and independence of the Baltic countries. Their spirit and bravery in the face of possible Soviet crackdowns was remarkable. These lessons learned are still applicable today. We are seeing them in Ukraine. 

We trust that America’s message and actions will be loud and clear. 

Respectfully, 
Karl Altau 
Managing Director 
Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc.
Representing:
Estonian American National Council, Inc.
American Latvian Association, Inc.
Lithuanian American Council, Inc.
Thursday
Jun262014

Don’t Delude Yourself: The Ukraine Crisis Is Far From Over

MONDAY, JUNE 16, 2014

Posted by: JUDY DEMPSEY.  Dempsey is a nonresident senior associate at Carnegie Europe and editor in chief of Strategic Europe. 

Ukraine is deteriorating, and quickly. The brief honeymoon that followed Petro Poroshenko’s inauguration as president is over. It is time for the West to step up its actions.

The past few days have seen a dangerous escalation of the crisis. On June 14, pro-Russian fighters shot down a Ukrainian military transport jet as it was trying to land at Luhansk airport in Eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian prosecutor’s office said all 49 people on board—40 paratroopers and nine crew members—had died.

NATO provided satellite imagery showing Russian tanks and heavy artillery crossing the border into Ukraine. The deliveries, shown in three sets of images dated May 30, June 6, and June 11, also included rocket launchers, according to the U.S. State Department.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and François Hollande, the French president, spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 14 asking him to control better Russia’s borders with Ukraine. But so far, every one of Merkel’s attempts to persuade Putin to stop Russia’s support for militia groups in Eastern Ukraine has failed.

Russia continues to deny it is arming rebels in the East of Ukraine. Instead, Putin has called on the Ukrainian government to stop its military operations. Yet Kiev is simply attempting to regain control of its territory while also trying to establish some dialogue with Moscow to end the crisis.

In this situation, doing nothing is not an option for Europe or America. The longer European governments hesitate, the more Ukraine is threatened by civil war. Its citizens will flee the conflict, and the growing humanitarian crisis in the East of the country will increase.

There may also be spillover into other parts of Eastern Europe. Just consider the political instability in Moldova and Russia’s meddling in Transnistria, not to speak of the lingering conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

European leaders cannot afford to believe that the Ukraine crisis will just fade away. It won’t. Nor will they be able to contain it unless they act. Given Russia’s continued meddling, Merkel needs to push the EU to impose a third round of sanctions.

It is true that the first two rounds of sanctions have had only an indirect impact on the Russian economy, while Putin’s popularity continues at an all-time high. But that should not deter the EU and the United States from pressing ahead with targeted sanctions that would include a visa ban for Putin’s inner circle combined with the freezing of their assets and a comprehensive ban on arms exports.

NATO can’t stand idly by, either. The measures U.S. President Barack Obama announced in Warsaw on June 5 go some way toward reassuring NATO’s Eastern allies. Yes, it is important that NATO conducts training and sends troops on a rotational basis to Poland, the Baltic states, and Romania. But is that really enough to deter Russia? Poland and Estonia both want permanent NATO bases on their territories. Such a presence could have an immense psychological impact for the region—and for Russia.

There are other tough decisions that NATO will have to make at its summit in South Wales in September. Georgia wants to be granted a NATO Membership Action Plan, a program of advice and practical support that would set the country on an unambiguous path toward membership.

Several European countries oppose giving the Membership Action Plan to Georgia, not only because they argue it would provoke Russia but also because they doubt that NATO would be prepared to defend Georgia in case of an armed conflict. So what takes precedence: meeting NATO’s criteria, or pandering to Russia?

NATO and the EU also have to decide how to deal with Moldova. Together with Georgia, Moldova wants to sign a political and economic association agreement with the EU. Russia is keen to stop that from happening. The reason isn’t just that Chişinău, despite all its systemic weaknesses, and Tbilisi would move economically closer to Europe. The impact these accords would have on strengthening civil society and democratic values cannot be underestimated, as the Kremlin now understands, and fears.

That is why the Kremlin has also embarked on an anti-EU and anti-NATO campaign further afield, in Montenegro, a small Western Balkan country that wants to join both Western organizations. Despite a pervasive culture of corruption, Prime Minister Milo Đukanović is hoping that Montenegro will become the 29th member of NATO at the alliance’s September summit.

Don’t bet on it. Montenegro is vulnerable to pressure from Moscow. Russians own about 40 percent of the republic’s Adriatic coast. Up to 7,000 permanent Russian residents have taken advantage of the country’s lax rule of law, while Russian businesses have heavily invested in the republic, not always to Montenegro’s advantage.

It is precisely to break this Russian stranglehold that part of the Montenegrin political class now wants to wed the country to the Euro-Atlantic organizations. But analysts in the region say that Russian propaganda in the Western Balkans has been stepped up over the past year to prevent that from happening.

In this situation, Western governments need to understand that their neighborhood is being drawn into Moscow’s power games and the Ukraine crisis. That is why further sanctions against Putin, the establishment of permanent bases in Eastern European NATO countries, and unstinting support for civil society and democratic institutions throughout Eastern Europe is crucial. The competition about values has only begun.

Saturday
May032014

G-7 Leaders Statement on Ukraine - 4/26/14

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
April 26, 2014
We, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, join in expressing our deep concern at the continued efforts by separatists backed by Russia to destabilize eastern Ukraine and our commitment to taking further steps to ensure a peaceful and stable environment for the May 25 presidential election.

We welcomed the positive steps taken by Ukraine to meet its commitments under the Geneva accord of April 17 by Ukraine, Russia, the European Union, and the United States. These actions include working towards constitutional reform and decentralization, proposing an amnesty law for those who will peacefully leave the buildings they have seized in eastern Ukraine, and supporting the work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  We also note that the Government of Ukraine has acted with restraint in dealing with the armed bands illegally occupying government buildings and forming illegal checkpoints.

In contrast, Russia has taken no concrete actions in support of the Geneva accord.  It has not publicly supported the accord, nor condemned the acts of pro-separatists seeking to destabilize Ukraine, nor called on armed militants to leave peacefully the government buildings they've occupied and put down their arms.  Instead, it has continued to escalate tensions by increasingly concerning rhetoric and ongoing threatening military maneuvers on Ukraine's border.

We reiterate our strong condemnation of Russia's illegal attempt to annex Crimea and Sevastopol, which we do not recognize.  We will now follow through on the full legal and practical consequences of this illegal annexation, including but not limited to the economic, trade and financial areas.
We have now agreed that we will move swiftly to impose additional sanctions on Russia.  Given the urgency of securing the opportunity for a successful and peaceful democratic vote next month in Ukraine's presidential elections, we have committed to act urgently to intensify targeted sanctions and measures to increase the costs of Russia's actions. 

Russia's actions in Ukraine and the response from the international community already have imposed significant costs on its economy.  While we continue to prepare to move to broader, coordinated sanctions, including sectoral measures should circumstances warrant, as we committed to in The Hague on March 24, we underscore that the door remains open to a diplomatic resolution of this crisis, on the basis of the Geneva accord.  We urge Russia to join us in committing to that path.
Friday
May022014

JBANC delivers Ukraine support letters to all Senate offices

Washington, DC) – On April 14th JBANC delivered letters to all U.S. Senate offices to thank for support for Ukraine and also to urge for further steps to stop Russian aggression and deal with security issues in Ukraine and its Central and East European neighbors. 

Read full letter text below: 

April 14, 2014 
The Honorable .... 
United States Senate 
Washington, D.C. 20510 

Dear Senator .....: 

The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC), representing Americans of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian heritage, has worked with Congress since 1961 to raise issues of interest and concern to the Baltic-American community, and to help formulate U.S. policy affecting the Baltic nations. 

Thank you for your support in passing H.R. 4152, the Support of the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy, and Economic Stability of Ukraine Act of 2014” (Public Law: 113-95), and S. 2183, “United States International Programming to Ukraine and Neighboring Regions” (PL: 113-96). Both were signed into law by President Obama on April 3. It is a start for assisting Ukraine in its time of need against the forces of Putin’s aggression. There is, however, much more work to be done, particularly now with Crimea completely occupied and Eastern Ukraine under assault, and worries in neighboring countries increasing daily. 

We encourage the swift implementation of these laws, and note Section 7 of PL: 113-95, dealing with appropriations for security cooperation and defense assistance to Ukraine and CEE countries, and directing the President to: 

(1) enhance security cooperation efforts and relationships amongst countries in Central and Eastern Europe and among the United States, the EU, and countries in Central and Eastern Europe; (2) provide additional security assistance, including defense articles, services, and military training, to countries in Central and Eastern Europe, including Ukraine; and (3) support reform and capacity-building efforts within the military, intelligence, and security services in Central and Eastern Europe, including Ukraine. 
In continuing to monitor the actions of Putin’s regime, we look for further support in identifying those in his government culpable of repressions and human rights violations and urge a significant expansion of the Magnitsky sanctions list, to both shine a light on serious abuses and to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. 

Putin’s brazen tactics remind us of Hitler’s Anschluss, and Stalin’s campaign against the Baltics in 1939-40. This sets a dangerous precedent of undermining the sanctity of borders. Moscow has done this before, in its 2008 takeover of Georgian territory and continuing occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The growing legacy of Moscow’s meddling in the internal affairs of other countries demonstrates Putin’s vision about how Ukraine should be structured to suit Russia’s economic interests. It is a spectacle of direct instigation by the Kremlin, or at least one perpetuated by henchmen implanted there by Moscow for the purpose of fomenting unrest. 

The consequences affect us all. We look forward to working together on these critical issues of national security. 

Sincerely, 
Karl Altau 
Managing Director , Joint Baltic American National Committee
Friday
Apr182014

CEEC Statement on Ukraine - April 17, 2014

The EANC, as a member of the CEEC, played a major role in the development of the following statement and call to action.  Please contact the Administration and your Senators and Representatives and voice support of the action items listed.

The President 
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414

Senators

Representatives

TEXT OF STATEMENT & CALL TO ACTION:

The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) joins the United States government in condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea.  The CEEC, comprised of 18 national organizations representing more than 20 million Americans of Central and Eastern Europe heritage, fully supports Ukraine’s aspirations for a democratic society living in peace and security with its neighbors. 
To date, the sanctions imposed by the United States have been insufficient to stop Russia’s further aggression into Ukraine.  Indeed, it appears that the security and stability of the entire Central and East European region is at stake unless further immediate action is taken by the United States, NATO, and the European Union. 
The CEEC therefore calls upon the United States government to do, and work with its allies to implement, the following:
  •   Support a major OSCE and UN peacekeeping mission (both civilian and military) to Eastern and Southern Ukraine to monitor the situation on the ground and deter provocations that may lead to Russian military intervention;
  •         Share relevant intelligence with the Ukrainian government in real time;
  •         Hold immediate joint NATO exercises in Ukraine and in bordering NATO ally countries such as Poland and the Baltic states;
  •         Support the establishment of permanent NATO bases in these front-line countries to assure their security.  Bases currently used by NATO for training and supply purposes in Central Europe should be made permanent and re-focused to territorial defense;
  •         Direct U.S. Navy ships to accept friendly invitations to visit Ukrainian ports;
  •         Provide Ukraine with Major Non-NATO Ally Status, thus conferring a variety of military and financial advantages and privileges that are otherwise not available to non-NATO countries, including the delivery of vital weapons;
  •         Extend immediate NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) to Georgia and other countries in the region to solidify Euro-Atlantic structures;
  •         Increase U.S. assistance to Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, and Belarus to maintain their independence;
  •         Provide assistance to Ukraine to facilitate its continuing transition to a democratic and tolerant society that fully respects fundamental freedoms and the rights of all minority communities, the latter thereby also dispelling a pretext for Russian aggression;
  •         Support Ukraine’s full integration into Western structures by accelerating Ukraine’s accession into NATO and the European Union;
  •         Take action on President Obama’s Executive Order expanding economic sanctions on Russia to include not only individuals within Putin’s inner circle, but major sectors of Russia’s economy; provide assistance to minimize the impact of economic sanctions on countries bordering Russia; work with major  U.S. companies to curtail their business dealings with Russia;
  •         Follow through to provide increased funding authorized by the Ukraine Support Act, signed by President Obama into law on April 3, for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America to expand their broadcasting in Russian, Ukrainian, and Tatar;
  •         Increase funding for people to people programs with Russia and its neighboring countries in both student and professional sectors;
  •         Bolster U.S. financial support for Ukraine by supporting a 21st century Marshall Plan aimed at stabilizing and strengthening trans-Atlantic and regional security.
 By implementing the above recommendations, we will build on the laudable steps already taken by President Obama and help ensure the safety and security of not only Ukraine, but the entire Central and East European regions.