March 4, 2008
Washington, DC – On March 3 representatives of the 19 member organizations of the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) spoke via conference call with Dr. Ron Asmus, foreign policy adviser to Senator Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The discussion, which was a follow-up to a meeting with Secretary Madeline Albright and Senator Clinton’s Campaign National Security Director, Lee Feinstein held last week in Washington, DC, touched upon numerous issues of concern to the member organizations of the CEEC.
The questions posed to Asmus touched on issues such as energy security in Europe and the United States, stability in the Baltics and the Caucasus, fostering of U.S. ties with the Central and East European region, as well as the assessment of Russia’s presidential elections and the situation in Belarus.
Asmus noted the importance of diversifying energy supplies to Europe and the United States and equated the importance of the Blue Stream and Nabucco projects to the significance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Asmus said “Russia aggressively uses its energy resources as a weapon.” Asmus added that both the United States and the European Union should “tame Gazprom,” and apply competitive open market rules to Russian companies. The Blue Stream and Nabucco projects will act as catalysts in making Russia “play by open market rules.” “The oligarchic structures of Russia’s energy system must undergo liberalization,” Asmus stated. Asmus believes that real U.S.-EU cooperation will help “chip away at the current energy problems.” Asmus stressed Senator Clinton's view of the importance of more active U.S.-EU collaboration in dealing with these ongoing energy security issues.
Expressing frustration at a muted U.S. reaction to the results of the Russian presidential election, the CEEC asked what White House policy would be under a new Administration. Asmus explained that new policies are needed to deal with Russia. According to Asmus, “Washington’s Russian policy has exhausted itself. Current policy is not working as Russia is becoming more authoritarian. The Bush Administration has not placed enough focus on Russia. As a result, Russia continues to bully neighboring countries and challenge U.S. interests in the Central and East European region. Russia’s violations of Baltic air space are a useful illustration of Russia’s aggressiveness.” Asmus believes the next U.S. president will need to form new policies toward Russia.
Asmus opined that the right policy towards Russia will include progress on Ukraine’s and Georgia’s desire to join NATO. Asmus indicated that a “democratic and secure Ukraine anchored in the West is the best thing for Russia.” He noted that Ukraine’s and Georgia’s membership in NATO should not be threatening to Russia. He believes the United States must assist former Soviet countries in their consolidation of democracy. Belarusan-American Association representative Alice Kipel strongly recommended that the new U.S. policy on Belarus should not be directed by what Moscow wants, but by what the Belarusian people want.
Asmus said that strong U.S.-EU ties are needed to secure peace in Europe. Frank Koszorus, Jr., representing the American Hungarian Federation, expressed concern about the impact that Kosovo’s recent independence may have on Vojvodina, such as the threat of a resurgence of violence and discrimination to further alter the ethnic composition of the province. Russia’s support of Belgrade has already resulted in a more nationalistic Serbia and greater ethnic tensions. Asmus responded by saying “the U.S. made a mistake by taking its eyes off the Balkans.”
Paying tribute to the work of the CEEC, Asmus emphasized to its members that Senator Clinton and her team will continue to keep Central and Eastern Europe and Russia in focus. Asmus expressed a desire for continued dialogue with the communities, and the CEEC members present thanked Dr. Asmus for his candid discussion.
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) is comprised of 19 national membership organizations that represent more than 22 million Americans who can trace their heritage to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
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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