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Wednesday
Dec092015

JBANC seminar on “The Future of Baltic Nordic Security and Trade" held in New York 12-4-15

The Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC), along with the American Latvian Association, held an informative seminar on “The Future of Baltic Nordic Security and Trade:  Sustaining and Strengthening U.S. Engagement in the Region” on December  4, 2015, to a full house at the Scandinavia House in New York City.  
Human rights advocate William (Bill) Browder, the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, and prominent journalist Michael Weiss were the headlined speakers. Other panelists included members of the Baltic diplomatic community and international policy experts.  Pictured at the event, L/R : Eric Suuberg (EANC), Matti Prima (EANC), Karl Altau (JBANC), Ilmar Vanderer (EANC) and Aavo Reinfeldt (EANC) .

The security discussion centered on the challenges facing the European Union from Russian aggression and propaganda. The legitimate recent downing of a Russian military plane by Turkey over Russia's violation of sovereign airspace could have been the first test of Article 5 if Russia would have taken counter actions to reciprocate. A next encroachment may determine the strength of the European Union alliance – i.e., that an attack on one would be deemed to be an attack on all. While sanctions against Russia are viewed as necessary, they negatively impact the economies of European trading partners, particularly Germany. How does a country that relies heavily on Russia for economic trade deal with its responsibilities as part of the EU? 
 It was also pointed out that Russia is more focused on bringing down the economies of bordering EU countries than improving its own economy.  And counteracting the Russian propaganda machine is extremely challenging. It appears that Putin’s dream is to return Russia to the former soviet empire. The Baltic countries are relying on internal vigilance and the hope of EU’s – and NATO’s -- full support . The importance of the U.S.’s commitment to NATO – and to independent Estonia -- cannot be overstated.  

The Estonian American community was well-represented at the event.   Krista Altok Tassa, president of theEstonian-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, moderated the panel on Baltic economic growth. The closing remarks were given by Matti Prima, Estonian American National Council Board member, and by Karl Altau, JBANC Managing Director.   Other EANC members attending were Eric Suuberg, Ilmar Vanderer, and Aavo Reinfeldt.
-- Aavo Reinfeldt