Central and East European Coalition Questions Controversial Concert
Last month, an event titled “A Concert for Unity” was held at the Washington National Cathedral. It was billed as an invitation-only affair presented in cooperation with the Embassy of the Russian Federation. The concert announcement listed sponsors including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, among other, less prominent non-profit organizations whose mission statements assert support for the arts, Russian culture, democracy and/or religious freedom. The full announcement is available at wilsoncenter.org.
The concert caught the attention of the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) due to the controversial background of the artists listed. Two of the featured performers are known agents of Putin’s campaign of economic and cultural influence to promote Putin's Russia and normalize relations with the Kremlin. Conductor Valeri Gergiev and pianist Denis Matsuev are both on record endorsing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and occupation of Crimea, and performed in Syria while Russian warplanes were bombing Aleppo. Gergiev also performed in Georgia days after the 2008 Russian invasion, effectively endorsing ethnic cleansing of Georgians.
The CEEC considered the event an affront to the values of its member organizations and was surprised that the Kennan Institute and Kennedy Center would lend their names in support. Washington Post reporting indicated that the event was funded by a DC socialite who has a history of promoting cultural understanding between the U.S. and Russia, and that the Kennedy Center supported the event in name only. Even so, the CEEC has pursued the matter further by writing to three institutions – the Kennan Institute, the Kennedy Center and the National Cathedral – expressing dismay and requesting more information from the leader of each regarding their rationale for backing the event.
While the CEEC understands that the aim of the event may have been to keep politics and cultural pursuits separate, this message would have been more effective if the event’s benefactor and featured artists didn’t have clear political ties. These artists and the source of the event’s funding certainly did according to Washington Post article linked above.
The CEEC hopes that the institutions in question will respond to its letters and will publish any pertinent updates as they are received. The organization was established in 1994 to coordinate the efforts of ethnic organizations whose members continue to maintain strong cultural, economic, and political ties to the countries of central and eastern Europe. It represents Americans of Armenian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, Georgian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, and Ukrainian descent. Its member organizations, including the Estonian American National Council, cooperate in calling attention to issues of mutual concern, especially regarding United States policy toward Central and East Europe.
By Karin Shuey, theEstonian American National Council (EANC)
Central and East European Coalition
Russia on NATO’s Doorstep:
The West's Response to the
to examine the execution, outcomes and aftermath of Russia’s large-scale
Zapad 2017 military exercise
Ambassador Kurt Volker, Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations
Stephen Blank, American Foreign Policy Council Senior Fellow for Russia
Eitvydas Bajarunas, Ambassador-at-Large for Hybrid Threats, Lithuanian MFA
Alex Tiersky, Global Security and Political-Military Affairs Advisor, U.S. Helsinki Commission
Invited speakers (responses pending):
John Lenczowski, President, Institute of World
Coalition Moderator: Mamuka Tsereteli, Georgian Association in the U.S.A.
115th Congress Policy
Summer 2017 (last updated July 6th)
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing more than 20 million Americans whose heritage lies in that region, regularly highlights legislation to share its concerns and ideas with the United States Congress and Administration. The legislation listed below reflects our concerns for the region and we advocate for the support of our Senators and Representatives.
CEEC and it's organizations have often met with Sen. McCain over the years.
July 27, 2017
In light of the unexpected recent news about his health, the Central and East European Coalition wishes Sen. John McCain well in his fight with cancer. We express thanks to the Senator for his dedicated support for allies in Europe. A great friend to the region, and an outstanding public servant, his record upholds American values, and he serves as a role model for all.
The Central East and European Coalition
[The CEEC has submitted the following questions to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in advance of the January 11, 2017 nomination hearing of Mr. Rex Wayne Tillerson
Questions for the Senate Hearing to Confirm the
Nomination for Secretary of State
The Central and East European Coalition is comprised of 18 national
membership organizations that represent more than 22 million Americans who
trace their heritage to Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). We advocate
for issues of key importance and interest to our
respective constituencies, in particular matters that affect the
stability and well-being of Central and Eastern Europe as well
as U.S. strategic interests in the region.
2. What is your position on the sanctions against Russia with respect to both Ukraine and Crimea?
3. How do you view NATO’s role in countering Russian aggression? What is your position on maintaining U.S./NATO equipment and troops permanently in CEE? Please provide specifics.
4. Where do you stand on NATO enlargement, to include countries such as Georgia and Ukraine?
5. What is your position on the Visa Waiver Program’s expansion to include other CEE countries, such as Poland? How would you make that happen?
6. Considering Russia's long history of using gas and oil as means of political and economic pressure, what is your position on U.S. assistance to ensure energy security and independence in the CEE region?
7. What should the Administration's priorities be on countering and exposing foreign disinformation, cyber-, and information warfare? How can the U.S. be more effective in fighting on this front? What interagency efforts are needed to be more successful?
8. What is your position on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)? Are you in favor of moving forward with these negotiations? If so, what do you think are the key provisions that would benefit the U.S.?
9. Do you consider Russia’s policies toward Central and Eastern Europe as being inimical or at least potentially inimical to U.S. national interests? If so, what concrete Russian policies do you consider as being contrary to U.S. geo-political interests in the region. How will the Trump administration address Russian policies in furtherance of its plans to make America great again?
10. Do you believe that U.S. interests are best served and cement long-standing friendships when Washington publicly lectures Central and Eastern European NATO allies about their internal matters, as the current Administration has done?
11. As a Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, the United States plays a critical role in maintaining stability in the South Caucasus region through its mediation of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. While OSCE Co-Chairs have determined there is no military solution to the conflict, Azerbaijan continues to violate the 1994/5 cease-fire agreements and has committed ISIS-style atrocities. How will you hold Azerbaijan accountable for its actions and ensure a peaceful and just resolution to this conflict?
12. 2015 marked the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, which was condemned as a crime against humanity by the Allied Powers as it occurred, but which Turkey denies to this day. Pope Francis publicly affirmed the Armenian Genocide stating it is an open wound that must be healed. What steps will you take to end its denial and reaffirm the proud chapter in U.S. diplomatic history to help save the survivors of the first genocide of the twentieth century?
On the Kremlin’s goals, it was noted that propaganda has always been a part of Russian and Soviet military doctrine. Russia calls its latest arsenal new generation warfare, fighting a total war on numerous fronts, to include political, economic, energy, cyber and information, in addition to more conventional military operations. The speakers saw a gap in U.S. policy that doesn’t fully recognize the broad extent of Putin’s aggression or his efforts to divide and weaken Europe and minimize or eliminate U.S. influence in the region.
Another U.S. shortcoming was identified as our loss of what we stand for. Putin may be playing a weak hand, but he’s finding his way because we’ve lost ours. One aspect of this is our still treating as valid agreements that Russia broke long ago. We need to clarify our foreign policy goals and employ the right tools, rooted in accurate, reliable info. The recent trend in rising relativism is diluting our values and objectivity.
The event concluded with proposed steps for moving forward. Renewed confidence in the media and making facts matter again, among the producers of the news and consumers, was a top concern. One speaker observed that Putin must know Russia’s population is interested in the truth; otherwise he wouldn’t expend so much effort on containing and oppressing it. There’s a large audience for RFE/RL and local media outlets to use the internet to present objective truth in an effort to counteract the Kremlin’s control over state media. While there was consensus that recovering objectivity and values could be a long-term battle, on a more positive note, Western governments are growing more aware of the problems and working on effective ways to address them.
The CEEC was established to coordinate the efforts of ethnic organizations whose members continue to maintain strong cultural, economic, political, and religious ties to the countries of Central and East Europe. It represents Americans of Armenian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, Georgian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, and Ukrainian descent. Its member organizations cooperate in calling attention to issues of mutual concern, especially as regards United States policy toward Central and East Europe.
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing more than 20 million Central and Eastern European Americans, strongly backs the United States' continued unconditional commitment to upholding the NATO Treaty as well as U.S. support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all Central and Eastern European nations. Our organization stands firm in its belief that America's close cooperation with all NATO allies and partners is fundamental to ensuring U.S. and European security. The CEEC urges both the current and future Administrations to continue developing allied relations with all NATO members and transatlantic partners, and to take such action as deemed necessary to maintain security of the Alliance, including the European Reassurance Initiative.
The renewed aggressive behavior and actions of Russia against Central and Eastern European nations have raised the importance of NATO’s credibility and cohesiveness for regional stability. In February 2016, then-NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove stated at a hearing of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee that "Russia has chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat to the United States and to our European allies and partners.” Earlier this year the CEEC sponsored a policy forum on NATO’s stance on Russia on Capitol Hill. A major theme of our discussion characterized Russia’s increasing aggression since 2008 not only in terms of fanning regional conflicts but as a fundamental assault on the post-World War II international order.
At the Warsaw Summit in July 2016, NATO stated it was fully prepared to defend the alliance and pledged an increase in military spending, in response to Russia’s unpredictable and aggressive behavior in the region. The CEEC believes the commitment by the United States to NATO countries should be based on collective defense, shared values, and democratic principles, as well as support for regional partners. We have, and continue to support the principle of NATO’s Open Door policy, for all willing and qualified nations.
The Central and Eastern European region is facing a multitude of threats from Russia. It is imperative for NATO members and partners to share collective knowledge in key security areas for combating a multitude of hybrid war forms, including cyber, media and economic manipulation, and destabilization in energy security. The CEEC supports U.S. continued commitment and leadership in addressing these threats.
The security of the United States lies in the peaceful expansion of democracy, not in the appeasement of aggressor states making imperial claims. Proactive U.S. leadership is vital to NATO’s continued effectiveness, to protect peace and security in Europe. The crisis driven by Russia in Central and Eastern Europe, and in Ukraine specifically, will not just go away. In an informationally interconnected and economically interdependent world, the United States must take the lead in promoting international norms and consolidating geopolitical stability.
1612 K Street, NW, Suite 1200 Washington, D.C. 20006
EAST EUROPEAN COALITION
Spring 2016 (last updated May 26)
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing
more than 20 million Americans, regularly issues Policy Papers to share
concerns and ideas with the United States Congress and Administration.
NATO AND SECURITY IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
VISA WAIVER PROGRAM AND IMMIGRATION REFORM
DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS, THE RULE OF LAW, AND THE INFORMATION WAR
U.S. ASSISTANCE TO AND PROMOTION OF REGIONAL DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE
TRADE AND ECONOMIC INTEGRATION
BLACK RIBBON DAY