The Estonian Embassy in Washington hosted a reception on February 22nd in honor of the 99th anniversary of Estonian independence. Among those attending were officials, diplomats, and representatives from the State Department, Congress, the Pentagon and the National Security Council. Ambassador Marmei opened the ceremony with greetings from President Kaljulaid.
The Ambassador bestowed presidential awards on three members of the audience. Mr. James J. Townsend, Jr. received the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, 3rd Class for his contribution to security cooperation. Mr. Townsend recently retired from his position as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European NATO Policy. His work in European and NATO policy began around 1990 and was instrumental in the ascension of the Baltic nations into NATO membership. He expressed deep appreciation for his recognition as an ardent supporter and good friend of Estonia.
Mr. Alexander Russell Vershbow was awarded the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, 2nd Class to recognize his work to enhance security cooperation. Mr. Vershbow was the U.S. Ambassador to NATO from 1998 to 2001, then served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation from 2001 to 2005. In 2009, he was appointed as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, where he was responsible, among other things, for U.S. policy toward NATO, including supporting the continuing evolution of Estonia from new member to solid ally. His career in European policy began in 1994 when he directed European Affairs at the National Security Council.
The citizen diplomacy award went to an Estonian-American in the Northern Virginia community, Mr. Tanel Beeren. He was recognized for his contribution to promotion of Estonian culture in the Washington region.
The ceremony underlined the significance of players behind the scenes who don’t always get recognized for getting the important work done. It also looked ahead to Estonia’s 100th anniversary of independence next year with gratitude and optimism for continued success and cooperation.