A Half Century of Baltic Activism in the United States: JBANC at 50

Karl Altau (Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc.)

The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) has represented the Baltic-American communities since its founding in 1961. This has included working actively for 30 years to ensure the restoration of independence for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania by 1991, and campaigning for a decade to help the three Baltic countries achieve NATO membership in 2004. JBANC’s mission has transitioned since then to encompass new goals, and it remains an influential actor within the foreign policy environment in Washington, DC.

But how do we measure success? What are future prospects with demographic changes and the evolving diaspora dynamic? With Baltic independence restored now 20 years ago, is there still a place for common Baltic-American advocacy? Recent JBANC activities and issues have refocused on the human rights dimension – a core issue from earlier days – speaking out for political prisoners in Belarus, and condemning political murders in the Russian Federation. In addition, with the NATO Summit coming up in Chicago in May 2012, there is much focus on transatlantic relations, and on keeping the United States actively engaged with the Baltic countries. To achieve its aims, JBANC not only combines the cooperative efforts and support of the Baltic-American community and organizations, but works actively in coalitions and with a number of other partners. This has involved an almost 20-year relationship with the Central and East European Coalition, plus close coordination with the Maryland Estonia Exchange Council and the State of Maryland, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, and other associations and organizations.

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