The Estonian American National Council (EANC) has been engaged for the last several weeks in advocating for U.S. support for humanitarian aid and security assistance in response to the war in Ukraine. It has also called for increased defense funding to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as the risk grows of the Kremlin’s aggression turning to the Baltic nations. EANC’s work has been conducted in close cooperation with our colleagues in the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) and the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), and most notably with our Ukrainian colleagues in our CEEC sister organization, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA).
While EANC has been engaged for months in calling for U.S. support for Ukraine and Ukrainians, its efforts ramped up on February 24 with a press release drawing heartbreaking parallels between the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine and the 104th anniversary of securing freedom from the Kremlin’s aggression in 1918 that Estonians celebrated that day. EANC’s support was amplified by meetings with key House and Senate offices, promulgating calls to action by our Ukrainian and Baltic colleagues, and prominent attendance at three national rallies for Ukraine outside the White House.
In the week leading up to the March 10 final vote on the fiscal year 2022 (FY22) budget, EANC issued letters to the White House and eleven key leaders in the House and Senate, urging them to support several actions, including:
Recognizing that the Baltic nations are on the front lines of transatlantic security, the letters also called for increasing FY22 Baltic Security Initiative (BSI) funding to at least $170 million to help Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania backfill their inventories of missiles and other military hardware that they are donating to the Ukrainian forces.
Shortly after the letters were sent, President Biden announced that the U.S. would ban U.S. energy imports from Russia. The final FY22 appropriations bill included significant increases in funding for both Ukraine and the Baltic nations. The original proposed level of funding for Ukraine was $6.4 billion and the final amount was almost $14 billion. The final appropriation for BSI was $180 million, $10 million more than the target number in the letters.
The lesson in the results following EANC’s, JBANC’s, and the CEEC’s efforts is that advocacy really can have an impact. Parallel advocacy by constituents is even more powerful. EANC and its colleagues invite Baltic Americans to lend their voices to advocacy for Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine. The next organized opportunity will be JBANC’s Baltic Advocacy Days, May 2-6, 2022. Please visit jbanc.org for more information and to register.