115th Congress Policy Brief

Summer 2017 (last updated July 6th)

The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing more than 20 million Americans whose heritage lies in that region, regularly highlights legislation to share its concerns and ideas with the United States Congress and Administration. The legislation listed below reflects our concerns for the region and we advocate for the support of our Senators and Representatives.


(Click here to view the policy paper)


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[The CEEC has submitted the following questions to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in advance of the January 11, 2017 nomination hearing of Mr. Rex Wayne Tillerson

of Texas, to be Secretary of State]


Questions for the Senate Hearing to Confirm the

Nomination for Secretary of State

2017


The Central and East European Coalition is comprised of 18 national membership organizations that represent more than 22 million Americans who trace their heritage to Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). We advocate for issues of key importance and interest to our respective constituencies, in particular matters that affect the stability and well-being of Central and Eastern Europe as well as U.S. strategic interests in the region.

 

  1. As Secretary of State, what would your strategy be to deal with Russian aggression in Ukraine and other Russia-related threats in Central and Eastern Europe?  How do you propose addressing Russia's perceived "spheres of influence" or national interests versus another country's territorial integrity and national interests?  What options would you employ to achieve Russia’s withdrawal from lands it unlawfully controls, such as Crimea, eastern Ukraine, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria?

 

2. What is your position on the sanctions against Russia with respect to both Ukraine and Crimea?

 

3. How do you view NATO’s role in countering Russian aggression? What is your position on maintaining U.S./NATO equipment and troops permanently in CEE? Please provide specifics.

 

4. Where do you stand on NATO enlargement, to include countries such as Georgia and Ukraine? 

 

5. What is your position on the Visa Waiver Program’s expansion to include other CEE countries, such as Poland? How would you make that happen?

 

6. Considering Russia's long history of using gas and oil as means of political and economic pressure, what is your position on U.S. assistance to ensure energy security and independence in the CEE region?


7. What should the Administration's priorities be on countering and exposing foreign disinformation, cyber-, and information warfare? How can the U.S. be more effective in fighting on this front? What interagency efforts are needed to be more successful?


8. What is your position on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)?  Are you in favor of moving forward with these negotiations? If so, what do you think are the key provisions that would benefit the U.S.?


9. Do you consider Russia’s policies toward Central and Eastern Europe as being inimical or at least potentially inimical to U.S. national interests? If so, what concrete Russian policies do you consider as being contrary to U.S. geo-political interests in the region. How will the Trump administration address Russian policies in furtherance of its plans to make America great again?


10. Do you believe that U.S. interests are best served and cement long-standing friendships when Washington publicly lectures Central and Eastern European NATO allies about their internal matters, as the current Administration has done?


11. As a Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, the United States plays a critical role in maintaining stability in the South Caucasus region through its mediation of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. While OSCE Co-Chairs have determined there is no military solution to the conflict, Azerbaijan continues to violate the 1994/5 cease-fire agreements and has committed ISIS-style atrocities. How will you hold Azerbaijan accountable for its actions and ensure a peaceful and just resolution to this conflict?


12. 2015 marked the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, which was condemned as a crime against humanity by the Allied Powers as it occurred, but which Turkey denies to this day. Pope Francis publicly affirmed the Armenian Genocide stating it is an open wound that must be healed. What steps will you take to end its denial and reaffirm the proud chapter in U.S. diplomatic history to help save the survivors of the first genocide of the twentieth century?


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CEEC Hosts Successful Policy Forum on Russia’s Information War

By Karin Shuey

(Washington, DC - October 3, 2016) --- The Central and East European Coalition hosted a timely and substantive event on Thursday, September 15, to discuss the topic “Russia’s Info War:  What is the Impact?”  A panel of four distinguished experts shared their views of and experiences with the issue.  Panel members were David Ensor, former Voice of America Director; Jeffrey Gedmin, former director of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL); Liz Wahl, former correspondent for RT America; and Marius Laurinavicius, Hudson Institute Baltic-American Freedom Foundation Fellow. The panel was moderated by Mamuka Tsereteli of the Georgian Association in the U.S.A. and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Discussion of the problem revolved around several themes, including declining journalistic standards, our flawed understanding of Russia’s strategic goals, and lack of clarity on U.S. goals.  The speakers noted that we are living in a post-factual world where we’re becoming numb to shock value.  The rules of journalism and regard for truth that guided the news media in the past are losing significance while public trust of the media and discrimination regarding reliable sources are also fading.


On the Kremlin’s goals, it was noted that propaganda has always been a part of Russian and Soviet military doctrine.  Russia calls its latest arsenal new generation warfare, fighting a total war on numerous fronts, to include political, economic, energy, cyber and information, in addition to more conventional military operations.  The speakers saw a gap in U.S. policy that doesn’t fully recognize the broad extent of Putin’s aggression or his efforts to divide and weaken Europe and minimize or eliminate U.S. influence in the region.


Another U.S. shortcoming was identified as our loss of what we stand for.  Putin may be playing a weak hand, but he’s finding his way because we’ve lost ours.  One aspect of this is our still treating as valid agreements that Russia broke long ago.  We need to clarify our foreign policy goals and employ the right tools, rooted in accurate, reliable info.  The recent trend in rising relativism is diluting our values and objectivity.


The event concluded with proposed steps for moving forward.  Renewed confidence in the media and making facts matter again, among the producers of the news and consumers, was a top concern.  One speaker observed that Putin must know Russia’s population is interested in the truth; otherwise he wouldn’t expend so much effort on containing and oppressing it.  There’s a large audience for RFE/RL and local media outlets to use the internet to present objective truth in an effort to counteract the Kremlin’s control over state media.   While there was consensus that recovering objectivity and values could be a long-term battle, on a more positive note, Western governments are growing more aware of the problems and working on effective ways to address them.


The CEEC was established to coordinate the efforts of ethnic organizations whose members continue to maintain strong cultural, economic, political, and religious ties to the countries of Central and East Europe.  It represents Americans of Armenian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, Georgian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, and Ukrainian descent.  Its member organizations cooperate in calling attention to issues of mutual concern, especially as regards United States policy toward Central and East Europe.


Panelists from left: Marius Laurinavicius, Jeffrey Gedmin, Mamuka Tsereteli, David Ensor, Liz Wahl.

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CEEC Statement on NATO

Click to read our August 8, 2016 statement 

The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing more than 20 million Central and Eastern European Americans, strongly backs the United States' continued unconditional commitment to upholding the NATO Treaty as well as U.S. support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all Central and Eastern European nations. Our organization stands firm in its belief that America's close cooperation with all NATO allies and partners is fundamental to ensuring U.S. and European security. The CEEC urges both the current and future Administrations to continue developing allied relations with all NATO members and transatlantic partners, and to take such action as deemed necessary to maintain security of the Alliance, including the European Reassurance Initiative. 


The renewed aggressive behavior and actions of Russia against Central and Eastern European nations have raised the importance of NATO’s credibility and cohesiveness for regional stability. In February 2016, then-NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove stated at a hearing of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee that "Russia has chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat to the United States and to our European allies and partners.”  Earlier this year the CEEC sponsored a policy forum on NATO’s stance on Russia on Capitol Hill. A major theme of our discussion characterized Russia’s increasing aggression since 2008 not only in terms of fanning regional conflicts but as a fundamental assault on the post-World War II international order.

At the Warsaw Summit in July 2016, NATO stated it was fully prepared to defend the alliance and pledged an increase in military spending, in response to Russia’s unpredictable and aggressive behavior in the region. The CEEC believes the commitment by the United States to NATO countries should be based on collective defense, shared values, and democratic principles, as well as support for regional partners. We have, and continue to support the principle of NATO’s Open Door policy, for all willing and qualified nations. 


The Central and Eastern European region is facing a multitude of threats from Russia. It is imperative for NATO members and partners to share collective knowledge in key security areas for combating a multitude of hybrid war forms, including cyber, media and economic manipulation, and destabilization in energy security. The CEEC supports U.S. continued commitment and leadership in addressing these threats.

The security of the United States lies in the peaceful expansion of democracy, not in the appeasement of aggressor states making imperial claims. Proactive U.S. leadership is vital to NATO’s continued effectiveness, to protect peace and security in Europe. The crisis driven by Russia in Central and Eastern Europe, and in Ukraine specifically, will not just go away. In an informationally interconnected and economically interdependent world, the United States must take the lead in promoting international norms and consolidating geopolitical stability.


1612 K Street, NW, Suite 1200 Washington, D.C. 20006
http://CEECoalition.us


CENTRAL AND EAST EUROPEAN COALITION


POLICY BRIEF


Spring 2016 (last updated May 26)


The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing more than 20 million Americans, regularly issues Policy Papers to share concerns and ideas with the United States Congress and Administration.


UKRAINE

  • Support the creation of a Center for Information Analysis and Response, which would lead and coordinate the collection and analysis of information on foreign government information warfare efforts (S. 2692, H.R. 5181).
  • Assist military and national security forces of Ukraine, and provide defensive weapons to the government of Ukraine and other East European countries

(H.R. 955).

  • Enact Crimea Annexation Non-recognition Act (H.R. 93).
  • Provide assistance to Ukraine for fulfillment of economic, social, and government reform requirements (S. 1635, 172, H.R. 2772).
  • Demand withdrawal of covert and overt Russian forces and equipment from Ukraine and compliance with cease-fire agreements.
  • Strengthen sanctions as necessary to achieve compliance with cease-fire agreements and withdrawal of covert and overt Russian forces and equipment from Ukraine as set forth in (S. 1356).
  • Demand that the President provide Ukraine with defensive equipment, services, and training in order to counter offensive weapons and reestablish its sovereignty and territorial integrity (H.R. 5859, enacted on December 18, 2014).
  • Enact Stability and Democracy (STAND) for Ukraine Act (H.R. 5094), which clarifies the position of the United States on Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, tightens sanctions on Russia, and drives new innovations to provide support for Ukraine.

NATO AND SECURITY IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

  • Support territorial integrity of Georgia (H.Res. 660).
  • Support NATO membership for aspiring qualified CEE countries (H.Res. 56).
  • Increase spending for NATO operations through the U.S. Department of Defense appropriations bill.
  • Establish permanent NATO bases in the Baltic countries and Poland to provide increased training and weaponry.

VISA WAIVER PROGRAM AND IMMIGRATION REFORM

  • Enact legislation to modify the Visa Waiver Program to include dependable U.S. allies, such as Poland (H.R. 1401).
  • Support reform of immigration laws that offer a pathway to citizenship. 

DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS, THE RULE OF LAW, AND THE INFORMATION WAR

  • Enact the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (H.R. 624).
  • Ensure that Magnitsky Act sanctions against the Putin regime are fully implemented. The United States should closely monitor human rights and corruption issues in the Russian Federation as required by the Magnitsky Act.
  • Ensure that U.S. international broadcasting and social media efforts effectively counter Russian disinformation, and support freedom of the press (S. 2517, S.Res. 152, H.R. 2323, H.R. 2242).
  • Call on the President to work toward equitable, constructive, stable, and durable Armenian-Turkish relations based upon the Republic of Turkey's full acknowledgment of the facts and ongoing consequences of the Armenian Genocide, and a fair, just, and comprehensive international resolution of this crime against humanity (H.Res. 154).
  • Promote democracy by supporting minority rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and combating manifestations of intolerance, such as anti-Semitism.

U.S. ASSISTANCE TO AND PROMOTION OF REGIONAL DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE

  • Join the Congressional Caucus on Central and East Europe.
  • Enhance FMF and IMET funding levels for CEE countries.
  • Support robust funding for the countries of Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine, and continued assistance to promote democracy in Belarus.
  • Maintain funding for educational and cultural exchange programs. 

TRADE AND ECONOMIC INTEGRATION

  • Support U.S. policies that strengthen the ability of CEE countries to better integrate into Western institutions (S. 1725, S. 995, S. 2130, S. 1890, S. 2772).
  • Monitor TTIP negotiations to ensure that the agreement mutually benefits the United States and the countries of the CEE region (H.Res. 73).

ENERGY

  • Enact legislation to facilitate the LNG export procedures, enhance energy security and transparency of transactions in CEE countries (S. 33, S.1237, S. 1247, H.R. 89, H.R. 287).
  • Take action to reduce dependence on energy supplies from Russia.
  • Support development and export of clean energy technology to CEE countries (H.R. 1175).

BLACK RIBBON DAY 

  • Enact legislation to designate August 23rd as Black Ribbon Day to honor those who lost their lives, were tortured or deported, lost their property or otherwise suffered under the ravages of the Soviet communist and Nazi regimes.




CEEC Policy Seminar on 
"NATO's Stance on Russia - Vision or Reaction?"

Opening Remarks: Marju Rink-Abel, Estonian American National Council
Keynote Address: Dr. Michael Carpenter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
Speakers:
Kurt Volker, McCain Institute, former U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO
Mindaugas Zickus, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Lithuania
Damian Murphy, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 
Moderator: Mamuka Tsereteli, Georgian Association in the U.S.A.
 
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
4:30 - 6:30 p.m. Discussion
6:30 - 7:30 p.m. Reception 
Dirksen Senate Office Building - room 106

To RSVP:
[email protected] or [email protected]


The region of Central and Eastern Europe is currently experiencing stress from a number of sources.  The most serious one is that the peace and stability attained after the collapse of the Soviet Union are again severely threatened.  Events in Ukraine are the most visible, but they are by far not the only troubling developments.  The goals of building and sustaining democracy require ongoing implementation of economic and political reforms, such as fighting corruption. The current situation in Central and Eastern Europe is of major concern to Americans of Central and East European descent.  The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) is an alliance of U.S.-based ethnic organizations representing over 20 million such Americans.  

A number of Members of Congress and their staffs have recently visited the region. The CEEC is organizing a briefing session in the Capitol Visitor Center, on September 16, 2015, during which Members and staff have been asked to share their thoughts about visits to the region – why it was important to make the visits, with whom they met, what were their impressions, what was accomplished, what follow-up is expected, etc.  Thus, we kindly invite you to attend.

The briefing session will begin at 4:45 p.m. and will last till 6 p.m.  The briefing will take place in CVC (House) Room 200.  Constituents from various CEEC organizations will be in attendance to ask questions and add their views.

For further information and to RSVP, please contact Michael Sawkiw, Jr., Director at the Ukrainian National Information Service ([email protected], tel. 202-547-0018), or Karl Altau, Managing Director, Joint Baltic American National Committee ([email protected], tel. 301-340-1954).

Sincerely,

Karl Altau
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On Behalf of the Central and East European Coalition

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