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June 2016 Baltic Embassies Meeting

The Lithuanian embassy hosted the Baltic ambassadors and community representatives for the second quarterly Baltic embassies meeting of 2016.  The ambassadors updated us on their countries’ priorities and upcoming events and a productive exchange occurred on many relevant topics.  According to one long-term participant, the meeting had the highest attendance of any such meeting since the tradition began many years ago.

In addition to the three embassies, the meeting also included representatives from the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC), the Estonian American National Council (EANC), the American Latvian Association (ALA), the Lithuanian American Council (LAC) and the World Federation of Free Latvian (WFFL). 

Front Row, L to R: Kristjan Kuurme, Estonian Embassy; Lithuanian Ambassador Rolandas Kriščiūnas; Latvian Ambassador Andris Razans; Marju Rink-Abel, President, EANC; Henry Gaidis, LAC. Back Row: Vincas Marcantonio, JBANC; Krista Viksnins, JBANC; Karoline Kelder, JBANC; Ausma Tomsevics, ALA; Stasys Backaitis, LAC; Karin Shuey, Washington DC Director for EANC; Karl Altau, JBANC; Tomas Sadauskas, LAC; Ilze Garoza, WFFL/ALA; Lithuania Deputy Chief of Mission Mindaugas Žičkus.

National security was the top priority for each ambassador.  They all discussed the status of their military forces, the progress they have made towards the goals set at the NATO summit in Wales last year and their thoughts looking ahead to the Warsaw summit in July 2016.  Support was unanimous for European Reassurance Initiative funding currently working its way through Congress as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

All three countries have elections coming up in the fall that may affect the political climate in the Baltics. A discussion ensued on the upcoming U.S. elections with speculation about implications for Europe of the potential new administrations.  The Latvian ambassador also informed us that he is nearing the end of his four-year term and his position will turn over this summer.

The ethnic community leaders presented their news and events.  EANC’s highlights included the November meeting and the publication of the upcoming History of Estonian Americans.  ALA recommended viewing of The Master Plan, the Latvian production on the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign and noted that they are celebrating their 65th anniversary this year.  They also mentioned their upcoming book on the history of U.S.-Latvian relations, to be released this month.  JBANC reported on the work they have been doing on the Hill and upcoming events, to include a policy seminar the Central and East European Coalition is planning in September on Russian soft power.

The meeting concluded on a high note with cautious optimism for our uncertain political futures.  All are looking ahead to a busy summer with the results of the Warsaw summit and developments in Ukraine.  Our next meeting will be scheduled in the fall.