WASHINGTON, DC (JBANC) --- Members of the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) met on July 11 with National Security advisors to President Bush and Vice President Cheney to discuss their concerns on the eve of the G-8 Summit, being held this weekend, July 15-17, in St. Petersburg, Russia.
CEEC members expressed apprehension about Russia's presence in the G-8, the group of seven of the world's leading economic powers (U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Japan), and Russia, as the eighth member. Russia has shown a marked reversal in its path to democracy, with the current Moscow regime increasingly tightening civil and press freedoms, while ramping up economic pressures on its neighbors, especially regarding energy security.
Issues discussed at the meeting centered on worries about the Russian Federation's internal democratization, economic pressures and energy security, the situation in Belarus, "frozen conflicts" in Georgia and Moldova, and NATO enlargement. The CEEC also keyed in on Vice President Dick Cheney's May 4 speech in Vilnius, in which Cheney strongly promoted a "Freedom Agenda" and expressed the Administration's worries about aforementioned issues, along with the corruption still pervasive in much of the region.
The CEEC emphasized that it is not an anti-Russia organization and supports U.S. engagement with the Russian Federation. At the same time, the CEEC emphasized that the Russian regime needs to act responsibly if it wants to be treated as a partner. It should be held to the same standards as the other members. This is also important as Moscow strives for WTO membership. Russia also currently chairs the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers until November of this year. In operating according to acceptable standards, Moscow cannot pressure its neighbors and intervene in their internal affairs.
At the same time, the CEEC articulated concerns that neighboring countries have the right to be nervous at Russia's behavior. For instance, Moscow hasn't been able to come to honest terms with its Soviet past, including admitting that the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries was illegal.
Questions to the NSC were directed by Frank Koszorus (American Hungarian Federation), Asta Banionis (Lithuanian American Community), Michael Sawkiw (Ukrainian Congress Committee of America), Ramunas Kondratas (Lithuanian American Council and JBANC), and Karl Altau of JBANC. Mati Kõiva, of the Estonian American National Council, also participated.
Administration officials at the meeting were Damon Wilson, Director of Central, Eastern, and Northern European Affairs at the National Security Council, and Eugene Fishel, Special Advisor to the Vice President for National Security Affairs.
The CEEC is an umbrella organization comprised of 19 U.S. national ethnic organizations, including the Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) and its three parent organizations. It was founded about 15 years ago to bring together those communities in the U.S. as the Soviet Union and its empire collapsed and the U.S. was developing new relations with the Russian Federation.
CEEC delegation met with U.S. National Security advisors on eve of the G-8 Summit