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U.S. Diplomacy Center

U.S. Diplomacy Center, the planned location for the display depicting the history of U.S.-Baltic relations. Source:


Estonian American National Council (EANC) representatives recently joined Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) colleagues for a briefing from the Department of State (DoS) Baltic team. The Director of Nordic and Baltic Affairs and desk officers for Latvia and Lithuania shared their insights on policy and current and upcoming events relevant to U.S.-Baltic relationships.


Representatives from the Global Engagement Center (GEC) and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (BECA) were also present to brief us on their programs.


The meeting started by recognizing the centennial celebrations the nations are holding throughout 2018. Each embassy has a long slate of events across the U.S. that State is facilitating to ensure their success. The Department is also creating a pictorial display for one of their main lobbies showing the evolution of U.S.-Baltic relations over the years, highlighting significant events such as the 1940 Welles Declaration that established U.S. refusal to recognize Soviet annexation of the nations, and the U.S.-Baltic Charter of 1998 supporting the nations’ full integration into European and transatlantic structures and cooperation.


The display will coincide with a possible Baltic summit in the works for this spring in Washington with the three Baltic presidents. The event will likely include two half-day programs. The White House portion will not be open to the public while the second program, featuring U.S.-Baltic business opportunities, will encourage public interaction. The embassies are coordinating with the Department of Commerce, private entities, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to highlight the success of Baltic business in the U.S.


The GEC representative described GEC’s work to counter disinformation by engaging at local levels with governments, NGOs, schools, social and civic leaders and others. Having learned that issuing active rebuttals to false messages is ineffective, they have shifted their focus to helping their partners establish credibility through positive messaging and building resiliency. In the Baltic countries they are working with local organizations and agencies to identify the key goals of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaigns, create media literacy among audiences, and facilitate information sharing among the countries to improve their effectiveness against the information threat.


The discussion with the BECA representatives centered around proposals to reduce the number of J-1 visas, which allow foreign citizens to come to the U.S. as students, au pairs, participants in exchange programs, shortterm workers and in other temporary capacities. Participants emphasized the importance, both to the Baltics and to the U.S. Baltic communities, of educational opportunities, internships, exchanges, and the like, that require the J-1 visa. They recommended increasing, rather than decreasing, the number of visas available.


The meeting closed out with a review of upcoming events and agreement to mutually support each other wherever possible. All in attendance clearly shared appreciation for all the work done, and will continue to work to strengthen U.S.-Baltic relations during this milestone year for Baltic independence.


Karin Shuey

Washington, DC

Director Estonian American National Council


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