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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. 

Karl Altau 
Managing Director 
Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc.
Estonian American National Council, Inc.
American Latvian Association, Inc.
Lithuanian American Council, Inc.