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EANC and JBANC Events and Activities in Response to Russia’s Annexation of Crimea

3/24/14 Update from Marju Rink-Abel, EANC President:

EANC and JBANC are members of the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), and are working with that organization regarding the security of the whole region.  We will not be effective nor will be we heard if we focus only on Estonia or the Baltics.

The priority right now is on Ukraine, and getting the Senate to pass S.2124 - Support for the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy and Economic Stability of Ukraine – which will provide Ukraine with a billion dollar loan guarantee.  Ukraine needs to be shored up immediately, which will help with the security of NATO countries as well.  It would not be productive to divert or divide our efforts in order to focus on a Congressional resolution regarding support for the Baltics alone, especially since both individual members of Congress and the Administration have already voiced their support, and taken some concrete actions.  

For instance, the U.S. has sent additional fighter planes to Lithuania to assist in patrolling Baltic air space.  Vice President Joe Biden went to Lithuania on March 18 to reassure Baltic leaders that the U.S. is committed to defending its NATO allies in the face of Russia's intervention in Crimea. Biden said that the U.S. commitment to defending allies under the NATO treaty is, in his words, "ironclad."  While earlier in Poland, Biden met with Poland’s president and President Ilves of Estonia. 

The following events have taken place in Washington:

1.  Demonstrations
In addition to the demonstration on March 6 organized by the Ukrainians, JBANC organized a rally for Ukraine on March 2 in Washington.  JBANC and EANC representatives were present at both and Marju Rink-Abel spoke at both in the name of Estonian Americans.  Photos are on the EANC webpage.  The following press release about these events is on JBANC’s webpage:

(Washington, DC) – Members of the Joint Baltic American Committee, Inc. (JBANC) and other Baltic-Americans engaged actively in rallies in Washington, DC over the last week to lend support to Ukraine against Russia’s aggression. 

On March 6, a mass rally in front of the White House brought dozens of activists from the Baltic-American community to an estimated crowd of more than 2000 people from throughout the United States. The rally was organized in solidarity with Ukraine, and to denounce Putin’s aggression in Crimea, which is in violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and international laws. Moscow’s actions are being strongly denounced, and JBANC is sharing in the global condemnation. 

Messages of support for Ukraine were given by Members of Congress, including House Baltic Caucus members Representatives Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, and Sander Levin of Michigan. Members of the Baltic-American community also gave remarks at the rally – JBANC Board member Marju Rink-Abel, President of the Estonian American National Council, Ausma Tomsevics of the American Latvian Association, and Asta Banionis of the Lithuanian American Community. 

Ms. Tomsevics, in her remarks of support for Ukraine, suggested that the United States “implement sanctions and legislation to extinguish the geopolitical control efforts of Russia, including moving forward to expedite the approval of U.S. natural gas exports [to Ukraine].” 

The United States Congress is currently considering a $1 billion economic aid package to Ukraine, which includes support for energy projects to help Ukraine fend off pressure from Moscow. 

Many other members from the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) spoke at the rally, which was organized by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, JBANC’s partner in the CEEC. Among the many hundreds of other participants of the rally were many Crimean Tatars, who are not only suffering now under Russia’s aggression, but reliving memories of their en masse forced deportation by Stalin in 1944. 

Other demonstrations in support of Ukraine were held this week in Washington, DC, including a rally at Dupont Circle which was organized by JBANC and featured remarks by Ambassadors Olexsander Motsyk of Ukraine and Zygimantas Pavilionis of Lithuania, and David Kramer, president of Freedom House. Another demonstration was held later that day in front of the Russian Embassy. Other recent rallies in support of Ukraine in New York and Chicago have included many activists from the Baltic-American communities. 

2. White House conference call
JBANC was invited by the White House to participate in a conference call with senior-level administration staff to receive an update on the Obama administration's ongoing work to address the crisis in Ukraine.   During that call the importance of passing S.2124 was also discussed. 

3.  JBANC letter to Congress
JBANC, representing EANC and Latvian and Lithuanian central organizations, hand delivered the following letter to 95 Senate offices, and mailed to the other 5: 

March 11, 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.
We strongly condemn the brazen actions of Putin’s government against the people of Ukraine and that country’s territorial integrity. Russia’s military invasion of Crimea and its escalation of the conflict are an affront to international civility and law and order, a threat to neighboring countries including Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and a shameful display for decent citizens of Russia, who are enduring Putin’s increasing authoritarianism.  The disinformation and outright fabrications generated by the Kremlin’s propaganda machinery against Ukraine, its people, and government is outrageous and dangerous. The forceful meddling in regional political affairs in Crimea under the real imposition of force reminds us of similar tactics used by Soviet occupiers against the Baltic countries in 1939-40. This scenario repeated itself throughout Central and Eastern European lands that came under Soviet control and colonization. It was not acceptable then, and it is not acceptable today.
Putin’s aggression sets a terrible precedent. It must be stopped. We ask for your support in the following areas:
1)      Consider the Support for Ukraine Act in a timely matter, and to support energy relief for Ukraine;
2)      Co-sponsor S. 1933, the Global “Magnitsky” Human Rights Act, which would help broaden sanctions against corrupt oligarchs and human rights violators by denying them travel to the U.S. and by freezing their assets. This would include sanctions against the former Yanukovych regime. We hope that implementation of the original Magnitsky law (PL: 112-208) is also taken seriously, by having the list of individuals and sanctions expanded against Putin’s regime. We ask that the U.S. also consider other sanctions directed against the  Putin state, including suspending Russia from the G8, and blocking their OECD membership;  
3)      Support legislation (including S. 192), to export LNG from the U.S. to Strategic Allies, including the Baltics.  
These measures would all greatly demonstrate conviction by the United States, which would send a strong message for Putin, and also show support for the democratic aspirations of Ukraine.  

We look forward to your support and working together on these issues.  

Karl Altau
Managing Director
4.  Diaspora communities’ letter to Congress
EANC and JBANC are co-signers of a letter to Congress on the Ukrainian legislation.  The text is at the end of this summary of activities. *

5.  Meeting with former ambassadors to Central European region
The Central and East European Coalition (with JBANC and EANC in attendance) met last week with former Ambassadors Bill Taylor (Ukraine), Rich Kauzlarich (Azerbaijan and Bosnia-Herzegovina), and Bill Courtney (Kazakhstan and Georgia) to discuss possible actions.  
As a result, the CEEC came up with an action plan that includes holding two policy briefings on Ukraine in Congress in the next two weeks, visits to key Congressional offices, and a meeting with the Administration.

6.  Meeting with State Department
On March 25, EANC and JBANC representatives are meeting with Brent Hartley, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for  European and Eurasian Affairs, and Baltic Desk Officers.  The focus of the meeting is on the Baltics, Russia, and Ukraine.

7.  JBANC co-sponsors policy briefing
 A Congressional policy briefing titled Belarus: Catalyzing Positive Change in the Geographic Center of Europe, will take place on March 25, tying in events in Ukraine. It is co-sponsored by JBANC, Freedom House, and  the Belarusan-American Association, in cooperation with the U.S. Helsinki Commission. 

* Text of diaspora communities’ letter:
Dear Majority Leader Reid, Speaker Boehner, Minority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Pelosi:
Ukraine needs your immediate help.

As the leaders of more than three dozen American ethnic organizations, representing tens of millions of voters across the United States , we call on you to provide vital support to Ukraine by immediately passing Senate Bill 2124. 

Under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, the United States , the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation made assurances to protect Ukraine in the event its sovereignty is threatened by a foreign entity, in exchange for Ukraine voluntarily giving-up its uranium and nuclear warheads to Russia , at the time the world’s third largest arsenal.  

Now, twenty years after signing the Budapest Memorandum, Russia invaded the Crimea region of Ukraine , overthrew its government, held an illegitimate election for an illegal referendum and declared Crimea annexed from Ukraine .   The “Referendum” for Crimean separation from Ukraine was held in violation of the Ukrainian Constitution and International Law.  The ballot offered no real choice - just two versions of the same decision on session.  There was no option to vote to remain with Ukraine - which is why many ethnic Tatar, Ukrainian and Russian Crimeans boycotted the election.  Local leaders opposing the election were apprehended and free media was suppressed.  The election itself was fundamentally flawed:  many ballots were pre-marketed, in some venues the number of people allegedly casting ballots exceeded the actual population. The ballot boxes were transparent so that those conducting the balloting could readily see how people voted.  Soldiers with automatic weapons patrolled the entrance to the polling places.  In short, Russian claims to have Crimea have no legal or electoral basis.

As the world watches, the U.S. must take immediate action to follow-through on its commitment to Ukraine .  While Ukraine’s young government transitions and prepares for upcoming elections in its path toward building a healthy democracy, Ukraine needs immediate national security support including:  strong financial resources both from the United States via a $1 billion loan and IMF funding, military support and training, and increased sanctions against those individuals responsible for threatening its sovereignty, the latter of which President Obama continues to  diplomatically execute by issuing Executive Orders. 

We look to Congress for leadership in providing this vital aide to Ukraine .  We commend the House for its work to quickly pass a bill providing a $1 billion loan to Ukraine , and the Senate for incorporating that $1 billion loan in S.2124, which also includes International Monetary Fund (IMF) quota reform that will further impact the aide Ukraine receives.

We join the White House, Republican and Democratic Foreign Relations Committee Senators, several dozen former U.S. cabinet secretaries and national security leaders, and more than 200 other policy experts who have voiced their strong bipartisan support for urgent IMF quota reform included in S.2124, which directly impacts Ukraine .   In a March 10 letter to you from the Bretton Woods Committee, former cabinet secretaries and national security officials urged the importance of maintaining U.S. economic leadership in the IMF and the impact it will have in lending additional resources to Ukraine “estimating that implementation of IMF quota reform would mean Ukraine would be able to borrow 60% more in rapid IMF financing (from $1B to $1.6B) than is possible today. Coupled with the U.S. $1 billion in new loan guarantees for Ukraine currently being considered by the Congress, Ukraine would have a total of $2.6 billion in emergency resources to draw upon to stabilize its economy. This enhances the geopolitical position of Ukraine ’s government in the current crisis with Russia .”

During his visit to Washington, D.C. earlier this month, Ukraine’s acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk expressed the importance of Ukraine receiving IMF funding and pledged to take all necessary measures to meet the conditions required by the IMF to secure this vital resource both immediately and long-term.   His administration continues to work with the IMF daily to meet those qualifications.  As Ukraine takes its necessary steps to obtain IMF funding, we must take our necessary steps to maximize that funding.  We have seen the success stories of IMF funding, from Ireland to Poland , Jordan to Tunisia .   Support for fulfilling our commitment to the IMF is support for Ukraine ’s prosperity and peace, and therefore stability and well-being for the entire geo-political region.

Failing to follow-through on our Budapest Memorandum commitment in a timely manner risks destabilizing Ukraine and the entire geo-political structure which has maintained peace in Europe for the past 25 years, while also sending a dangerous message to the rest of the world about the folly of a country’s giving up the nuclear option.  This would undermine United States ‘ credibility and damage our ability to pursue nuclear nonproliferation, a top national security priority.   This would obviously impact our efforts relative to Iran , North Korea , Syria and any other country which might see weapons of mass destruction as its salvation.  

We ask Congress to act now to pass S.2124.  World interests, American interests are at stake.  
Respectfully yours,
[signed by 20+ national diaspora organizations]