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JBANC's letter to Sen. Gordon Smith

September 17, 2008
The Honorable Gordon Smith
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Smith:
The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) representing one million Americans of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian descent in the United States thanks you for introducing S. Con. Res. 87 on June 9.

The legislation congratulates the Republic of Latvia on the 90th anniversary of its declaration of independence, which was proclaimed on November 18, 1918. It is also important to remember, as the language of S. Con. Res. 87 states, that after enjoying a brief generation of independence, Latvia and its Baltic neighbors Estonia and Lithuania were assigned to the Soviet sphere of influence by the 1939 signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, leading to over 50 years of occupation by the USSR. The forcible and illegal Soviet annexation of the Baltic countries was never recognized by the United States. Thanks in large part to the support of the United States and the West, the Baltic countries have since the restoration of independence in 1991 integrated into the community of free and democratic nations.

S. Con. Res. 87 additionally "calls on the President and Secretary of State to urge the Government of the Russian Federation to acknowledge that the occupation of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and for the succeeding 51 years was illegal."

To more fully appreciate the struggles that Latvia and many other nations endured under foreign rule, we hope you and your staff will consider attending the screening of the documentary film “The Soviet Story” at the Heritage Foundation at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 18 (214 Mass. Ave., NE, Allison Auditorium, with a reception to follow), co-sponsored by the Embassy of Latvia and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Please RSVP via the Heritage events website.

The main aim of the movie, according to the Economist.com, “is to show the close connections – philosophical, political, organizational – between the Nazi and Soviet systems.” It was filmed over a twoyear period in Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, France, Germany, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. Director Edvins Snore, from Latvia, will lead a discussion following the screening of the film.

We thank you for your consideration of these matters and look forward to being in touch soon again.

Sincerely,
Lya Karm, M.D.
Chair


Octobr 17, 2008 - President Bush Discusses the Visa Waiver Program
Office of the Press Secretary/ White House News

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Please be seated, thank you. Welcome to the White House. I'm pleased to stand with the representatives of seven countries -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and South Korea -- that have met the requirements to be admitted to the United States Visa Waiver Program. Soon the citizens of these nations will be able to travel to the United States for business or tourism without a visa. I congratulate these close friends and allies on this achievement, and I thank you for joining us here.

I also thank Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of the Homeland -- Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff for working hard to make sure this day has finally arrived. Appreciate other members of the administration here and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

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The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc.
400 Hurley Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850-3121
tel. 301-340-1954
fax: 301-309-1406
e-mail:jbanc@jbanc.org