For Estonians, February 24 marks a day of celebration on the anniversary of the 1918 declaration of independence (Manifest Eestimaa rahvastele). This year, Estonia marks its 105th birthday. Freedom can never be taken for granted. Particularly during this time.
This is especially tangible considering it being the first anniversary of Russia’s massive new invasion of Ukraine on February 24 last year.
Russia’s invasion remains not just an existential threat to Ukraine’s freedom, but for the security of Ukraine’s friends, allies, and partners. The instability Russia creates by both its destructive conventional and hybrid warfare in its genocidal crusade against Ukraine, is a danger for United States security, as we are linked into Europe’s security and stability. Obviously, the threat is even more palpable for Estonia, and other countries in the nearby Baltic region and wider Europe that have been supporting Ukraine. We see these threats increasing this week against Moldova, sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, and in the continuing attempts at destabilization of the Republic of Georgia. Russia itself suffers from the wanton abuses of a government which increasingly restricts the actions of its own citizens and sends tens of thousands of conscripts into the meatgrinder for no reason.
Ukraine’s victory is utterly necessary. Russia must be defeated. And it must be defeated now.
As Audrone Plepyte, Lithuania’s Ambassador to the U.S., stated on February 15 at her country’s reception on the Day of the Restoration of the State of Lithuania: this is a war “that we cannot afford to lose.”
What can we do to help? Number one is to continue supporting Ukraine here in the United States, whether by contributing to charities and non-profits that aid Ukraine, or contacting your elected officials, and Members of Congress, to ask for their support as new pro-Ukrainian legislation is considered.
With the one-year anniversary of Russia’s 2023 invasion around the corner, look for events supporting Ukraine happening in your city. There will be many across the country. In Washington, DC, for instance, there will be a mass rally for Ukraine at 2:00 pm on February 25 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
Advocacy remains key. You can also join in the first Ukrainian Days advocacy event organized this year, from March 8-9, 2023, in the U.S. Congress. The event, which has occurred multiple times on a yearly basis since Russia’s initial invasion in 2014, is organized by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS). The Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) has supported this event every year since 2014.
To register online: https://my.forms.app/unisdirect/ukrdaysmarch2023
In information provided by UNIS in Washington, DC, the Ukrainian Days “advocacy event will be an opportunity to meet in-person with congressional offices and to promote our immediate concerns for increased security assistance for Ukraine; imposing more sanctions against russia [sic]; designating russia as a State Sponsor of Terrorism; recognition of the current war and the Holodomor as genocide; and, recognizing the Wagner Group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).”
Following this, the next major Ukrainian advocacy event is the Ukraine Action Summit in Washington, DC, being organized by a coalition led by Razom. That is scheduled to take place during the week of April 23, 2023.
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), of which JBANC and the Estonian American National Committee are members, will hold a one-day advocacy day in the U.S. Congress on April 26. Please contact JBANC at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to participate.
Security assistance for Ukraine – and for the Baltics, as they help Ukraine – is critical.
Ukraine fights for itself, and by extension continues to fight for us, and Western values against a tyrannical and imperialist menace. This is being done with increasing amounts of Western-provided aid and equipment. We’re on the right track. However, Ukraine needs even more than tanks, jets, and missiles. It should be invited to join NATO at the earliest opportunity.
True, we must first get over the hurdle of Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO applications. A unanimous vote by all 30 NATO members is necessary for admitting new countries, and all but two countries have done so in a timely manner. Hopefully, this will have taken place prior to the next NATO Summit, being held from July 11-12 in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Hungary is expected to take up the matter of Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership as soon as the end of February, when the parliament convenes. Turkey’s vote has been a little more contentious of late, owing to that country’s sensitivities regarding Sweden. Hopefully, the vote there will happen soon after the upcoming springtime election. Turkey, however, has other serious concerns now, namely the fallout from the disastrous February 6 earthquake, which has devasted that country (and Syria).
Still, Ukraine’s NATO membership application needs to be on the table. It deserves consideration now. To the naysayers, please remember that in 1994 Estonia’s NATO membership seemed unrealistic to most. Ten years later, in 2004, Estonia joined the alliance. Deservedly so. If Ukraine’s membership seemed somewhat unrealistic for many at the time of the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit, remember that nearly 15 years have gone by since then, and where are we today?
So, on this February 24, when we raise the Estonian blue, black, and white flag, let’s keep our minds and hopes on Ukraine, and raise the blue and yellow one as well.
Note: This article was first published in Vaba Eesti Sõna on February 17, 2023.