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Blog by Karl Altau

High-level Baltic Presence in Washington, DC for CEPA Annual Forum

October 2, 2017

On September 21-22 the 9th annual CEPA (Center for European Policy Analysis) Forum took place in Washington D.C. In this year’s forum panels covered a range of pressing policy issues from "Reforming NATO for the 21st Century" to "Strengthening U.S.-Central European Relations" and “The War of Narratives in the Information Ages.” Many participants from Europe, including the Baltics, gathered to speak on panels or to join the audience.

 

On the first day of the forum, the president of Latvia Raimonds Vejonis helped open the proceedings. The president remarked on the U.S.-Baltic relationship. Following his speech, President Vejonis told JBANC that “it’s very important to speak at this conference because even though most people are aware of Latvia and the Baltic states, it’s very important to remind about the history of our region because some might have forgotten parts of it.”

 

 

 

President Vejonis believes “history lets us understand better the current relationship between the U.S. and the Baltic states; lets us look for improvements.” He recalled the Sumner Welles Declaration that recognized Baltic sovereignty while the countries had fallen under Soviet occupation.

 

“By remembering agreements like this, we can look back at the big role that America played in the history of the Baltic states. To add, President Trump has repeatedly assured us regarding matters that are important to us. Some decisions might take longer, but the results are being seen,” said Mr. Vejonis.

 

Among the other top-tier presenters from the Baltics were Jānis Garisons, State Secretary from the Ministry of Defense of Latvia, Jüri Luik, the Minister of Defense of Estonia, Linas Linkevičius, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Jānis Sārts, the Director of NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence in Latvia (Stratcom COE), Robertas Šapronas, Defense Policy Director of Ministry of Defense of Lithuania, Maj. General Meelis Kiili, Commander of the Estonian Defense League, and others.

 

 

One of the last panels on the first day of CEPA Forum was about “The War of Narratives in the Information Age,” where Mr. Sārts spoke. Other panel participants were Edward Lucas, Senior Vice President of CEPA, Urve Eslas, StratCom Program Contributor at CEPA, Daniel Kimmage, Acting Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center at the Department of State, Jukka Savolainen from the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats in Finland, and Brian Whitmore, Senior Russia Analyst at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. After the panel, we spoke to Mr. Sarts about the seriousness of disinformation.

 

“The fact that I’m here speaking about our experience means we have an audience. This is one of the fields where we’re not coming with questions about how Americans could help us, but we’re coming with solutions. We have that amount of knowledge that Americans are lacking now,” said Mr. Sārts. He stressed to JBANC that every time he’s in DC, that representatives from the U.S. Congress and administration are very eager to meet.

 

When asked about finding additional financial support from the U.S. for the NATO Stratcom Center of Excellence in Riga, Sārts said that “there are twelve member-countries at the center, and it’s hard to understand why the U.S. is not one of them.” Sārts hopes that the U.S. Department of State will support the Stratcom center.

 

 

For more information on the CEPA Forum, please visit their website.

Photo credits: CEPA.

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