Ambassadors Share U.S.-Baltic Call For “Peace, Prosperity”

February 23rd, 2009


Ambassadors share U.S.-Baltic call for “peace, prosperity”

Feb 16, 2009
Kim Kweder, special to The Baltic Times

In new administration, the Baltics look to U.S. for stability
Photo: K. Kweder

WASHINGTON- The three U.S. Baltic ambassadors have vowed their commitment to advancing transatlantic relations.

The brand-new Capitol Hill Visitor Center set the stage for sharing ideas on U.S.-Baltic relations on Feb. 12 with Ambassador of Estonia Vaino Reinart, Andrejs Pildegovics (Latvia) and Audrius Bruzga (Lithuania).

The panel discussion, “President Obama and the Baltics” hosted by the U.S. Baltic Foundation, had the Lithuanian ambassador reflecting upon the title.

“I think it is interesting, provocative and engaging,” Bruzga said.

“We want peace and prosperity,” he said, “It may be easy and simple, but it’s not so easy to achieve.”

The ambassadors noted the importance of the U.S.-Baltic Charter signed in 1999. The charter, from the late-Clinton era, was a foundation to improving security, investment and democratic values for the Baltic States.

Former U.S. political action from officials now within the current Obama administration were seen as positive:

In Sept. 2008, then-former Sen. Obama had been among seven senators to sponsor the Senate resolution on congratulating Latvia’s 90th anniversary of its independence; former Sens. Joe Biden and Hillary Rodham Clinton also supported NATO enlargement for the Baltics; and the security dialogue with Sec. of Defense Robert Gates continues.

In addition, Obama had also twice acknowledged all three Baltic countries in two of his presidential debates last year.

Among the topics, the ambassadors briefly discussed the fears a Cold War revival between the U.S. and Russia, the global economic crisis, energy, NATO expansion, and Eastern partnerships.

All three Baltic States face economic hurdles: Latvia had to secure a $2.35 billion loan from the IMF in December, Estonia already hit a recession, and, Lithuania is likely to follow Estonia, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

U.S. investments are lacking in Lithuania since the charter and not “led up to the ambition,” said Bruzga.

All of the ambassadors also prodded the fear on “Buy American” provisions in the $825 billion stimulus bill.

“The key to success is not protectionism,” said Reinart.

The ambassadors also noted concern of free trade scaling back due to newer EU regulations and the need for more openness to U.S. trading in the Baltics.

In addition, the countries still have NATO commitments in Afghanistan with their deployed troops: Estonia 149; Latvia, 143 and Lithuania, about 150, according to the embassies.

“Preventing war is more important than winning war,” said Reinart.

On Feb. 12, Minister of National Defense Rasa Jukneviciene met with the U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at the Pentagon on NATO issues. Gates said NATO is not a “debating club but a defense organization with the Article 5 at its heart,” according to the Lithuanian Defense Ministry.

Article 5 in the North Atlantic Treaty was used on Sept. 12, 2001, for the alliance to aid the U.S. fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On U.S. relations with a cold Russia, the ambassadors cited Ukraine and Georgia as examples.

Bruzga said: “We should be brave enough to face the issue again” after failed NATO bids last year in the former Soviet states.

Meanwhile, Pildegovics said Latvia hopes to warm up Russia relations as a “predictable partner” to Russia.

“All in all, the dialogue has been better, but with Georgia and Ukraine, it has put the clouds on it,” Pildegovics said.

After the hour-long discussion, the emphasis was directed to how will the U.S. fulfill its promises to the Baltic nations.

“I find this is a fitting event. … It’s a new beginning for the U.S. president, but I’d like to highlight that at the end of the day, it depends on the energy of the leaders on both sides vowing to further the remarkable bonds between the two neighbors,” Mr. Pildegovics said.

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2 Responses to “Ambassadors Share U.S.-Baltic Call For “Peace, Prosperity””

  1. Tom |

    I haven’t been in the Baltic states and seen it firsthand, but from everything I’ve read and heard, they’ve done a good job of managing their own development since the Soviet Union fell apart. The U.S. would do well to tend its relations with these states carefully and maintain very close ties. Not only do they merit our attention, they also have to survive in the shadow of a resurgent Russia, and we need all the good friends we can find in that area.

  2. diehlberg |

    the Baltic nations are the litmus test for america’s intestinal fortitude to support and defend the west’s ideal. if we fail there we’ll fail everywhere!

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