House Baltic Caucus

News

view:  full / summary

State Secretary Andrejs Pildegovics and House Baltic caucus member rep. Rohrabacher (R-CA) discussed regional security policy

Posted by Central and East European Coalition on August 10, 2015 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (4)

On 7 August, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andrejs Pildegovičs met with a delegation of the United States Congressional delegation, led by Dana Rohrabacher, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

 

The Latvian Foreign Ministry’s State Secretary thanked the U.S. for ensuring military presence and regular military exercises in the region, and highlighted successful strategic partnership between Latvia and the U.S. both at the bilateral level and in NATO.

 

Congressman Rohrabacher affirmed the unwavering commitment of the U.S. to the Baltic States’ security. He pointed out that the international community must also cooperate more actively in the fight against global terrorism, which is currently the main threat to peace and security in the world.

 

The conversation also addressed regional and international security, including the implementation of the decisions made at the NATO Summit in Wales, the developments in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia, the fight against global terrorism and the European Union’s cooperation with the Eastern Partnership member states.

 

The US Congressional delegation had arrived in Latvia as part of a regional visit. The delegation also included Congressman Stephen Cohen, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice at the House Committee on the Judiciary. While in Latvia, the Congressmen met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence and the State Border Guard, as well as visiting the Ādaži military base to meet U.S. troops. The U.S. Congressmen are also visiting Austria, Belarus, Russia, Estonia and Lithuania.

 

This was the second U.S. Congressional delegation to arrive in Latvia within a week. On 5 August, our country welcomed a U.S. Congressional delegation, led by Rob Wittman, a member of the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services, Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee. U.S. Congressmen had meetings with members of the Saeima (the Latvian Parliament), the Minister of Economy, the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Defence. The delegation also visited the Ādaži military base to meet U.S. troops currently stationed in Latvia.


Source: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/news/latest-news/47578-state-secretary-andrejs-pildegovics-and-the-u-s-congressman-dana-rohrabacher-discuss-regional-security-policy

House Baltic Caucus co-chair rep. Shimkus (R-IL): "I obviously have a special place in my heart for Lithuania"

Posted by Central and East European Coalition on April 11, 2015 at 12:30 PM Comments comments (0)

 

John Shimkus, the only US Republican congressman of close Lithuanian descent, says he is proud of Lithuania being such a staunch ally of the United States, with the ties deeply rooted in the two countries’ long-standing political, economic and cultural collaboration.

 

But cornered up to say whether Lithuania stands out “in any way” among the other Baltic States as the one “just-a-bit-closer” to the United States, especially in the field of energy – Lithuania is thought to be among the first European countries to start receiving US liquefied natural gas deliveries in early 2016 – Mr. Shimkus sticks to a diplomatic reply. “


I obviously have a special place in my heart for Lithuania, but I’m thankful for the enduring friendship between the US and all the Baltic states,” he says.


A quick “look-up” on the internet conjures up an image of an exuberant, gregarious and life-loving man. Those who ever worked with the Republican politician insist that is exactly the kind of person he is.


But the life has hardly been a bowl of cherries for the man whose Lithuanian descent through the parental line has been widely discussed. “


I talk about my Lithuanian heritage and my work on Baltic issues often,” he says.


He admits that some ordinary Americans still sometimes need an extra lesson not only on the Lithuanian history, but also geography, which he is always eager to give. “


I think it’s important to educate my colleagues and my constituents back home about the countries, like Lithuania, where freedom has flourished in the post-Soviet era. It’s inspiring and I never get tired of sharing that story,” the US legislator noted.


Being a lifelong resident of Collinsville, a suburb of St. Louis, he started off his career, which would eventually lead him to the legislative chambers of the most powerful country on earth, from the very bottom - as a US Army infantry private.


He ran for a public office in 1989, when he was elected a Collinsville Township trustee. A year later, he was elected as Madison County treasurer - the first Republican elected to a countywide post in 10 years. It took him a mere five years to become, in 1994, the first Republican to be reelected as county treasurer in 60 years. “


This is another thing I’m very proud of,” he says.


As the chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy and, moreover, a member of Subcommittees on Energy and Power, Health, Communications and Technology, Shimkus, understandably, puts his hands on what might be called “softer” issues of the US politics, but his counterparts in the House of Representatives can envy, without exaggeration, his profound, nitty-gritty comprehension of Eastern European and Baltic security issues.


The expertise helped him breathe the pathway to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, within which, as a US delegate, Shimkus visited Lithuania last month. “


It was great to spend some time with the US troops in Rukla when I visited Lithuania in March. I think our troop rotations in Europe as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve demonstrate our commitment to NATO and our common defense,” the US legislator recalled the visit.


With the multiple debates in the air whether Lithuania needs to seek reinforcement of its security guarantees through the larger support from the US, Shimkus comes at them firm: “I do believe Lithuania’s NATO alliance suffices to have the guarantees.” He adds: “NATO is fundamentally committed to the collective defense of its members.”


Amid the standoff between the West and Russia, the debate on the issue of the Baltic security, let’s admit, sometimes goes to tantalizing extremes for the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Like, if the bellicose Russia breached their territorial sovereignty, what would the response from the US and NATO be? But upon hearing questions like that Shimkus does not wobble infinitesimally. “


I am absolutely convinced the US and NATO would step in immediately, should Russia invade Lithuania. “


Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is clear that an attack against one ally is an attack against all,” says the congressman. He adds succinctly: “Should Russia ever enter into a war against the United States of America, the US will win.” But asked about President Barack Obama’s withdrawal from the anti-missile defense system plans in Eastern Europe, especially Poland, Shimkus is blunt to say he has “long” supported a robust missile defense program. “I’m not sure if having such a system in place would have prevented recent Russian aggression, but it would reassure our allies now of our readiness and commitment to defend NATO territory,” he says.


Weighing in on the recent vociferous comments from Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė that Russia (quote) is “a terrorist state”, the American politician says he “can’t speak to what President Grybauskaitė meant by her comments”, but notices that the Russian government continues to sow seeds of discord and instability amongst its neighbors. “


Whether it’s through the propaganda and covert pressure we see in the Baltics or the direct military invasion that has taken place in Ukraine and Georgia,” Shimkus says.


President Grybauskaitė, he insists, faces the challenge of countering the aggression of the Russian government every day, firsthand. “


I have a great amount of respect for the challenge she faces and the job she is doing. We must stand with our NATO allies to show the Russian Federation that our allies do not stand alone,” the US lawmaker insists.


While the world, especially in the uneasy, security-preoccupied regions like Baltics, perhaps still expects bigger engagement from out-going US President Barack Obama, John Shimkus swiftly dismisses the hope. “


Unless the situation on the ground changes substantially, I don’t expect much of a change in what is going now between Russia and Ukraine,” he asserted.


With GOP-controlled Congress and Senate appearing to many unable to nudge the president for more pronounced actions, Shimkus agrees that is the case, but explains that it has to do with the US Constitution and laws that grant the president near exclusive authority to conduct American foreign policy. “


There is a roll for Congress in terms of providing funding for lethal and non-lethal assistance and authorizing the use of force, but there are limits to what we can make any president do,” explains Shimkus.


When it comes to the US military to Ukraine, he says, all Congress can do about it is provide the funding for such aid, but, again, it cannot force the president to send it overseas.


Russia has, obviously, been a hard nut to crack for the Western coalition. With many believing that switching Russia off the global banking system would deal it a crippling blow, Shimkus says that economic sanctions take time to affect change and require participation from other major economies. “


The US can’t do much more through sanctions without a greater commitment from major European powers like Germany and France,” noted Shimkus.


With the 2016 presidential race hopefuls popping up in the Republican Party, he chuckled upon hearing question whether he might think in the future of running for presidency of the United States. “


I’m very happy serving my constituents in the House of Representatives,” he said, adding that “regardless of the party affiliation, the next US President will be also a staunch ally of the Baltics.”


Having certainly caught the American dream in his life, he praises the system, capitalism, which opened for him the door to the US Congress. “


Capitalism has brought greater prosperity to a greater number of people than any other economic system ever devised. It’s a system that rewards hard work and creativity without regard to where one begins on the socioeconomic ladder,” he says.


When government does not pick winners and losers, he says, individuals have the opportunity to pursue their own dreams, to take risks and either enjoy their success or try again if they fail. “That’s what liberty is all about,” he adds.


 

Source: http://en.delfi.lt/global-lt/us-congressman-john-shimkus-i-obviously-have-a-special-place-in-my-heart-for-lithuania.d?id=67696608

 

House Baltic Caucus co-chair rep. Shimkus (R-IL) in Vilnius: Friendship even more important in dangerous times

Posted by Central and East European Coalition on March 11, 2015 at 12:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Friendship in dangerous times tends to become even more important, US Congressman John Shimkus, the leader of the Baltic Caucus, said in Lithuania on Tuesday.


"I continue to be thankful for the relationship we have, and the strings of our commitment to each other, especially in more dangerous times, which I think many of us hoped we never have to see your experience again, but it's only when you are in difficult times friendship means more," Shimkus said at a news conference at the Lithuanian parliament.


He also applauded the Lithuanian achievements over the 25 years of independence, saying he visited the liquefied natural gas terminal and US troops in Rukla during his visit. "


For the first time you have permanent rotation, US troops on the ground, and i think it's exciting. It is not exciting only for Lithuania, I think it's very exciting for our troops who get the experience, which is friendship, the hospitality and the importance of selfless service in putting yourself in areas that help strengthen democracy and freedom," Shimkus said.


Soldiers of the US land forces have been rotated in the Baltic states and Poland since the spring of 2014 in response to the Russian actions in Ukraine. Furthermore, the alliance has stepped up the protection of the Baltic skies and seas in the wake of the changed regional geopolitical situation.


 

Source: http://en.delfi.lt/lithuania/foreign-affairs/us-congressman-in-vilnius-friendship-even-more-important-in-dangerous-times.d?id=67400564

 


 

US Library of Congress hosted Lithuania's 25th anniversary of independence celebration

Posted by Central and East European Coalition on February 25, 2015 at 12:40 PM Comments comments (0)

The prestigious Library of Congress in Washington DC turned out to be the perfect backdrop to start the 25th anniversary celebrations of the reinstatement of Lithuania’s independence on 11 March 1990. Close to 200 dignitaries turned up, including Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, Linas Linkevičius, the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rokas Masiulis, the Minister of Energy, and the House Baltics Caucus member rep. Michael Turner of Ohio. Among the dignitaries were also the Deputy Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament Andriy Parubiy and the former Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili.

 

Lithuanian Ambassador to the USA, Žygimantas Pavilionis, introduced the speakers, referring to the former head of State, Vytautas Landsbergis, and Minister Linkevičius as the strategists that pulled Lithuania free of the Soviet oppression and that set the course for the country to join the EU and NATO within 15 years.

 

Professor Landsbergis became the first head of state of Lithuania in 1990. He was the president of the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament) during those dramatic March days in 1990. Professor Landsbergis reminded the audience in his speech of the continued struggle for democracy and independence. He quoted the wise words from Ronald Reagan: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction." He also expressed the fear that Putin’s aggression and ‘hybrid warfare’ that is being waged against Ukraine do not only represent a danger for Ukraine and Eastern Europe but ultimately for the United States. He wondered why people still keep on referring to Russian military and local thugs as pro-Russian separatists in Easter Ukraine, whilst everybody knows their true nature.

 

Minister Linkevičius emphasised the important strategic partnership between the United States and Lithuania. He called for unrelenting solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their struggle to remain whole and free. Minister Linkevičius asked for the US to keep up the lead against Putin’s expansionists plan on the European continent.

 

Ambassador Žygimantas Pavilionis then introduced the representatives of the present day ‘Bloodlands’: the Deputy Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament and one of the Maidan leader, Andriy Parubiy and the former Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili. Deputy Speaker Parubiv spoke with strong words about daily struggles and non-respect of agreements that Ukraine faces against Putin’s forces. Former Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili spoke about the many challenges that he sees first hand as Chair of the International Advisory Council on Reforms, appointed by Ukrainian President Poroshenko.

 

The guest were also able to visit the private reading room of the Congressmen and Senators in the Library of Congress where they could see a display with more than 40 books about various aspects of Lithuania regaining independence in 1990.

 

 

Source: http://en.delfi.lt/global-lt/us-library-of-congress-hosts-lithuanias-25th-anniversary-of-independence-celebration.d?id=67291196

 

The Lithuanian parliament awarded House Baltic Caucus co-chair rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) for his contribution to Lithuania's independence and statehood

Posted by Central and East European Coalition on February 20, 2015 at 12:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The Lithuanian parliament has awarded the country's allies in the United States, local representatives and officials for their contribution to Lithuania's independence and statehood.

 

 

Among those awarded for their input to the restoration of Lithuania's independence will be US Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman John Shimkus.

 

The parliamentary award for fostering the Lithuanian spirit and outstanding personal contribution to Lithuania's diplomacy will go to ex-ambassador to Ukraine Petras Vaitiekūnas, who is also a signatory of the 1990 Lithuanian independence act.

 

Awards will also be conferred on about a dozen of Lithuanian officers, artists and journalists.

 

The special award for the contribution to Lithuania's independence, fostering of state and parliamentary traditions and promotion of the society's well-being was established by the parliament's board last year. A person will only be able to receive the award once in his or her life.


 

Source: http://en.delfi.lt/lithuania/politics/us-congressmen-among-recipients-of-lithuanian-parliaments-award.d?id=67224698

 

House Baltic Caucus co-chair rep. Schiff (D-CA): Russians will be made to feel consequences of their leader's recklessness

Posted by Central and East European Coalition on November 6, 2014 at 12:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Western countries must be prepared for even more of Russia's provocations in Ukraine, for unconventional warfare methods, espionage and propaganda, according to US Congressman Adam Schiff.

 

In an interview with DELFI, Schiff, who is an influential voice for the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives on foreign policy and national security issues, insists that the West must make President Vladimir Putin pay for his reckless policies and Russian people feel the consequences of their leader's actions.

 

Looking back, what do you think were Russia’s goals in Ukraine? Has Moscow achieved them?

 

Moscow was taken by surprise by Ukraine’s rejection of its prior leader. And I think that Putin’s reaction was very ill-considered and dangerous and provocative by interfering in the sovereignty of neighboring Ukraine. Providing weapons and military personnel to separatists in Ukraine was a deeply destructive thing to do and no one is fooled about Russia’s complicity in the violence.

 

Not only have thousands of people been killed in Ukraine as a result of Russia’s belligerence, but a civilian airliner was shot down with the weapon system provided by Russia. So, it’s been deeply destabilizing and has really poisoned Russia’s relationship with much of the world. I don’t think that Putin is achieving his objective because he has permanently changed the orientation of Ukraine away from Russia and towards the West.

 

What more can we expect from Russia?

 

We can expect further excess of provocation within Ukraine whenever Ukraine is turning to the EU. When the EU Association Agreement is fully implemented, we can expect further destabilizing efforts. Whenever there are discussions on what level of autonomy certain parts of Ukraine may have, we can expect Russia to try to strengthen its hand by encouraging provocations of violence in Ukraine.

 

In the end, we may expect propaganda through Russian-language television in Ukraine as well as the Baltics. This is, I think, one of the more nefarious methods that Russia uses to destabilize Russian-speaking populations elsewhere. Given Russia’s claim to be the protector of Russian populations everywhere, it is establishing a very dangerous precedent which can lead to further confrontation between Russia and the West.

 

Do you think people in the Baltics should be worried for their security? While NATO and the US have made pledges to defend them, Russia is using a range of non-conventional warfare methods.

 

Yes, the non-conventional methods that Russia is using – we can expect that to continue and perhaps intensify. And chief among them are efforts to destabilize Russian-speaking populations within the Baltics, through the use of highly distorting Russian propaganda through Russian-language media. And, of course, the use of Russian intelligence services. NATO, I think, is properly stepping up its presence and commitment to the Baltic countries.

 

People of the United States recognize that we have an absolutely vital role to play that other countries are not in the position to play. At the same time, we want the rest of the world to share in the obligations of defending freedom. This is one of the reasons why we have pressed many other countries to increase their defence budgets.

 

The Baltics enjoy a very strong support in US Congress, a very bi- partisan level of support, we all take seriously our NATO collective defence and will be doing everything we can with our NATO partners to deter Russia from further act of aggression.

 

Should the US assist Ukraine with weapons?

 

I think that we need to continue to keep up the pressure on sanctioning Russia, and far from any discussion of loosening the sanctions, I think they should be further intensified. And I would like to see us provide military support to Ukraine. The Ukrainian military is never going to be a match for the Russian military.

 

Moscow continues with provocations in the neighbouring countries, like arresting an Estonian officer or continually violating Sweden’s airspace. What might be the purpose of such actions and how should we respond?

 

I think they have a dual purpose. One is to test the defences of the NATO countries, to see how quickly these countries can react to invasions to their airspace or their waters. But the other goal is to assure domestic political support for Putin. There are certainly many Russians that are worried about the increasing isolation of Russia in the international community and by poking concentration with its neighbours, Russia hopes to distract from internal problems and bolster Putin’s popularity.

 

I think the way we have to respond is by strengthening our defences, by deterring these provocative and dangerous Russian actions, by calling them out within international community, by further isolating them and by making Russia pay a price. And the most significant price is the economic price, because ordinary Russians have to be made to feel the negative consequences of the recklessness of their leader.

 

Russia has also stepped up its espionage and cyber attack efforts. Have you noticed that in the US?

 

Cyber attacks are a new frontier of warfare and Russia is one of the most provocative actors in this area, not only engaging in industrial espionage to help their defence industries, but also to try to disrupt systems and infrastructure in other countries. This is something that Estonia only knows too well, so does Georgia and other countries that are victims of Russian hackers, and this is going to be a threat that’s with us for a long time.

 

Because much as Russia disguised its armed forces by sending them into Ukraine, Russia disguises its state-sponsored hand in the cyber operations by polling them off on independent groups of Russian hackers that work in alliance with the Russian government.

 

Russians, I think, are one of the most sophisticated actors in the world of the cyber realm. They’re knowledgeable, they’re clever, they’re destructive and they’re willing to do damage. The only thing that we can do is to respond by improving our defences collectively, by calling them on the carpet internationally and by putting economic pressure on them. There isn’t going to be a silver bullet, we are simply going to have to intensify our efforts, because our adversaries certainly are.

 

You’ve mentioned propaganda. Is it possible to resist the sheer size of Russia’s efforts in spreading propaganda?

 

I think it’s very important that the countries in the region that have sizeable Russian-speaking populations work together, to create alternative Russian language media. I am well aware that people tune in to Russian TV not necessarily for the news, which is so badly distorted, but they tune in for soap operas, soccer games and other things. It means that in the Baltics and elsewhere, they are going to have to create alternative Russian language programing, so that people would tune in and get more objective news.

 

It has to go way beyond Radio Free Europe, because I don’t think those outlets can compete with the high level of production that they see on Russian TV. I think you really need Russian language programing that is on par with what has been plastered out of Moscow. It has to be indigenous, high quality TV and radio programming.

 

Could the US get involved on this front as well?

 

I think the United States can certainly help and we have worked in other parts of the world, for example, to create an Arab-language TV and production, so we have some experience in trying to match propaganda of others in other languages.

 

But I think it ought to be led by the countries in the region and people in the Baltics understand more what their own citizens would be interested in.


 

 

Source: http://en.delfi.lt/central-eastern-europe/us-congressman-adam-schiff-russians-will-be-made-to-feel-consequences-of-their-leaders-recklessness.d?id=66321510

 

 

Lithuanian prime minister Butkevicius and House Baltic Caucus co-chair rep. Schiff discussed mutual economic interests

Posted by Central and East European Coalition on October 10, 2014 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Halfway through the visit to the United States, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius had a meeting with Congressman Adam Schiff, as well as business and trade associations.

 

 

The PM pointed out the importance of the United States as Lithuania's strategic partner, and invited any investments in the country. He shared the anxieties generated by the geopolitical situation in the region and stressed the importance of opening of the American market for Lithuanian pork and beef, the prime minister's press service said.

 

"US are a strategic partner of Lithuania. Our two countries share common values, security guarantees and economic interests. I am happy that globally known American companies operate in Lithuania, but it is notable, however, that the full potential has not as yet been exhausted. We are interested in cooperation in information technology and life sciences. We also invite American businesses to use our country as the springboard for trade with Eastern European countries, as Lithuania has a well-developed road infrastructure and the ice-free seaport, as well as highly-skilled professionals," said Butkevičius.

 

The PM noted that in the context of the Russian embargo, the good news coming from the US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in terms of its confirmation about Lithuania's compliance with US requirements is more than welcome by the Lithuanian sectors of agriculture and logistics. The prime minister said he was convinced about the successful outcome of the necessary procedures required for the adoption of the regulation by the US administration enabling the listing of Lithuania in the US Federal Register of countries authorized to bring in meat products to the US, as well as the public debate on the issue, thus providing a possibility to open up new markets.

 

Congressman Adam Schiff noted that his country saw Lithuania not only as a strategic political partner, but also as a reliable country for the development of bilateral business interests.

 

Among other items discussed was the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement, Lithuania's accession to the Economic Cooperation and Development organisation, euro introduction and the current geopolitical situation.

 


Source: http://en.delfi.lt/lithuania/foreign-affairs/lithuanian-pm-and-us-congressman-schiff-discuss-mutual-economic-interests.d?id=66085700

 

Deputy Minister of National Defence Marijus Velicka discussed security situation in the Baltic region and Ukraine, and US-Lithuanian defence cooperation with the House Baltic Caucus member rep. Devin Nunes

Posted by Central and East European Coalition on August 8, 2014 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

"We appreciate the speedy deployment of additional US fighter aircraft and troops in response to the changes in security situation in the Baltic region. That is a huge support and assurance to the people of Lithuania that the USA, out our key strategic ally, is firmly committed to NATO's collective defence. We are highly interested that the US presence in Lithuania is maintained after 2014 with approval from the majority of Lithuania's population," Deputy Minister of National Defence Velička said at the meeting.

 

According to Deputy Minister Velička, Lithuania was looking forward to the approval of the additional USD 1 billion financing for the US President's European Reassurance Initiative at the US Congress.

 

Nunes assured that the United States would keep to its commitments and support even though those were not easy decisions regarding additional financing for the USA.

 

The guest welcomed the 20 percent increase in Lithuanian defence spending to be reached this year already and the agreement of Lithuania's political parties to commit 2 percent of GDP for defence financing by 2020.

 

"You must continue holding intensified training and investing into strengthened military training capacity and host nation support - allied troops, US military in particular, receiving mutual benefit from the exercises in Lithuania appreciate that beyond doubt," the members of the US House of Representatives said. "

 

Lithuania has always been a particularly reliable partner to the US despite the changes in the security situation in the region, we were, we are and we will be prepared to contribute to multinational operations and missions side by side with the USA whenever that is necessary," Deputy Minister of National Defence Velička underlined.

 

Later in the day Congressman Nunes visited the Mechanised Infantry Brigade (MIB) Iron Wolf (Lithuanian Land Force) in Rukla and met with the current rotation from the 173rd Airborne Brigade deploying troops to combined exercises in Lithuania since early April.

 

At a meeting with Commander MIB Iron Wolf Colonel Raimundas Vaikšnoras and leadership of the US military deployed in Rukla Congressman Nunes discussed joint operation of Lithuanian and US troops and relevant issues. While in Rukla, the guest also observed US and Lithuanian troops training combat self-defence.


 

Source: http://en.delfi.lt/lithuania/defence/lithuanian-deputy-minister-discussed-regional-security-with-us-congressman.d?id=65511442

 

Black Ribbon Day in Washington, D.C., marks 75th anniversary of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Posted by Central and East European Coalition on August 3, 2014 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

 

August 23 marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that divided Europe and facilitated the start of the Second World War. Now remembered as Black Ribbon Day in many countries, it coincided this year with the 25th anniversary of the Baltic Way event. There were several commemorations in the United States that started early in the morning with a ceremony in the United States Congress and later the same morning at the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C.


Congressman John Shimkus, of Lithuanian origin, sponsored a bill to designate 23 August officially as Black Ribbon Day. Now that legislation has passed the House of Representatives, it was the first time that the Black Ribbon Day was commemorated in the Freedom Rotunda of the Capitol. John Shimkus reminded the audience of the fight for freedom in the three Baltic countries that led eventually to the successful integration into the EU and NATO. It was a particularly moving experience to hear Congressman Shimkus read a quote by Rasa Juknevičienė’s mother from the book "Children of Siberia” in which she recounts her family’s experience whilst in exile in Siberia.

The Georgian and Ukrainian ambassadors reminded the audience that the fight for freedom is still an ongoing struggle. Ukrainian Ambassador, Olexandar Motsyk stated, "We need to mobilize all forces to ensure that Ukrainians retain their freedom and that we gain a free and united Europe." Ambassador Motsyk thanked Lithuania for the full support and expressed sympathy with Honorary Consul Mykola Zelenec who was kidnapped and murdered on Friday in Lugansk.

 

Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States, Žygimantas Pavilionis, thanked Congressman John Shimkus for initiating the bill to designate Black Ribbon Day. Ambassador Pavilionis expressed the hope that the United States Senate will in turn pass the bill soon. "Congress is a crucial part of democracy in the United States and a symbol for the world, and therefore the commemoration of the Black Ribbon Day, will not only remember all the victims of totalitarian regimes, but honour them," said ambassador Pavilionis. He concluded, "Any attempts to cover lies and the use of intimidation and violence in an attempt to subjugate freedom, such as at present in Ukraine, will need to be confronted and unanimously supported by all forces.”

 

The events in Washington continued at the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C. The monument was inaugurated in 2007 and the Black Ribbon Day remembrance has been an annual event. Marion Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, expressed the wish that "In the future, we hope Black Ribbon Day will become a better known day and that more people in the USA would use the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact anniversary to remember all of the victims of communism and fascism in Europe." Karl Altau of the Joint Baltic American National Committee and the incoming Estonian Ambassador, Eerik Marmei also reminded the audience of the wider significance of Black Ribbon Day. It was also announced that there are plans to build a museum about the history of communism on the National Mall in Washington DC, starting in 2017. The Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Georgian, Hungarian, and the Czech embassies placed flowers and wreaths in honour of the victims of Communism. All the participants finally held hands around the statue to mark the Baltic Way’s 25th anniversary.


Source: http://en.delfi.lt/global-lt/black-ribbon-day-in-washington-dc-marks-75th-anniversary-of-molotov-ribbentrop-pact.d?id=65639262


Rss_feed