Reset button not needed for the Baltics
Archived Articles 19 May 2009  EWR
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Anders Hjemdahl

WASHINGTON, DC - The JBANC (Joint Baltic American National Committee) 2009 congress took place in Washington, DC on May 15-16, gathering representatives from many levels of the goverments of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the United States, as well as diplomats, members of the diaspora, political commentators, historians, writers, journalists and former congressmen and U.S. government officials. The annual JBANC congress coincides with several related activities around Washington, including embassy events, hearings in the U.S Capitol, seminars, gala dinners, fundraisers, informal meetings and cultural events.

The guest of honor of this year’s highly successful and well attended international congress was the President of Latvia, Mr.Valdis Zatlers, who delivered a highly appreciated speech centered on the importance of Latvia’s membership of NATO and friendship with the United States, transatlantic solidarity, the need for a united and distinct response to Russian belligerence, and of the need to defend the open society, democracy and free markets in the face of economic crisis.

The Friday, May 15 programme started with a briefing on cyber security at the US Capitol, featuring Dr. Stephen Blank of the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, Deron McElroy, House Committee on Homeland Security, and Paul Joyal of National Strategies, Inc., and was followed by a seminar at the Heritage Foundation themed on Information, New Media and the dissection of the legacy of Communism, presented by Dr. Lee Edwards of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

The Saturday, May 16 congress was an all-day event, with the major themes being

- Regional Geopolitics, Current and Future Security Threats

(Featuring Robert Norrick of the Monterrey Institute, Janusz Bugajski of CSIS, and Harri Tiido of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

- Ensuring Stability: Strategic Solutions and Regional Partnerships

(Featuring Julianne Smith of the U.S. Department of Defence, Andres Teikmanis, State Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Socor of the Eurasia Daily Monitor, the Jamestown Foundation, and Nicholas Kralev of The Washington Times)

- Policies of the new U.S. Administration and Congress: Baltic - U.S. Relations

(Featuring Alan Melzer, Deputy Director, Office of Nordic and Baltic Affairs, U.S. State Department, Vytautas Naudazas of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and Ben Smith of Politico

- Diaspora Relations and Citizen Diplomacy - Views Across the Atlantic

(Featuring Aho Rebas, Office of the Minister for Population and Ethnic Affairs, Estonia, Mendy Nitsch, International Affairs, Office of the Secretary of State, Maryland, Andrea Strano, Regional Public Diplomacy Desk Officer EUR, State Department)

The discussions centered on the security situation of the Baltic republics in the wake of the lack of European Union and NATO response to the Russian invasion of Georgia, focusing on energy security, the validity of NATO Article 5 and the military security of the Baltic states, and of cyber security.

The afternoon discussions were dominated by an in-depth discussion on the need for securing the energy markets in the Baltics in relation to Russia’s use of energy for coercion and intimidation purposes, with initatives ranging from the construction of a local nuclear power plant, energy grid connections to Sweden, Finland and Poland, and the urgent need for creation of a common energy market for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The desirability of Swedish and Finnish NATO memberships were discussed repeatedly, with Julianne Smith of the U.S. Department of Defense stating that “any application of Sweden and Finland to join NATO would be welcomed with open arms”.

Other high-interest issues which were brought up by many speakers and members of the audience were the continued validity of NATO Article 5, the need for extended NATO infrastructure and rapid reaction capability in the Baltic states, and the desirability of the stationing of foreign NATO “tripwire” troops in the Baltics as a stabilizing deterrent to Russian aggression and provocation.

An underlying topic which dominated many aspects of discussion were the importance of the formulation of new, common strategies of the European Union, NATO, and the new U.S. administration in dealing with an increasingly belligerent, aggressive and authoritarian Russia. Notable speakers on this subject were Vladimir Socor of the Eurasian Daily Monitor of the Jamestown Foundation, Janusz Bugajski of the Center for Strategic and Intertational Studies (CSIS), and Harri Tiido of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As a closing statement to the security-related discussions, Mr. Vytautas Nauduzas, Ambassador-at-large of Lithuania, invited U.S. President Obama to Lithuania for the July 6 celebrations on the President’s way to Moscow. ” - A reset button is not needed with the Baltics” stated the Ambassador.

(Posted on the JBANC website , this summary appeared originally on Sunday May 17 in The Stockholm Observer)
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