Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Andy Harris (R-MD) and Sander Levin (D-MI) have introduced House Joint Resolution 139 inviting the President to proclaim a “Freedom to Choose Their Destiny for the Nations of Eastern Europe and Eurasia Week.”  In a letter to their colleagues on Capitol Hill the four lawmakers – all co-chairs of the House Ukraine Caucus — invited their fellow congressmen and congresswomen to become co-sponsors of the bipartisan resolution aimed at affirming the right of Russia’s neighbors to pursue their democratic and Western aspirations free from Russian interference, coercion and aggression.

As described in the letter:  This resolution builds on the [Cold-War-era] “Captive Nations Week” Resolution, and invites the President through an annual proclamation to set the record straight that all nations have the right to self-determination, territorial sovereignty, and to choose their own destinies. It sends a message to our partners in the region that we stand with those that embrace liberty, instead of those that seek to tear it down. By standing together, we ensure a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world.

H.J. Res. 139, introduced on September 12th, states the position of the U.S. Congress on Russia’s violations of international agreements and norms vis-à-vis its neighbors and authorizes and requests the President of the United States to take specific actions in response:

(1) Congress condemns the clear, gross, and uncorrected violation of principles of the Helsinki Final Act, the Paris Charter, and other international agreements and norms by the Russian Federation in its relations with Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine in particular, including the flagrant violation of their sovereignty and territorial integrity;

(2) the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation designating a “Freedom to Choose their Destiny for the Nations of Eastern Europe and Eurasia Week” and inviting the people of the United States to observe such week with appropriate ceremonies and activities;

(3) the President is further authorized and requested to issue a similar proclamation each year until such time as the nations of Eastern Europe and Eurasia are free to exercise their sovereign rights without outside interference; and

(4) the President is further authorized and requested to develop policies designed to support the efforts of these nations to determine their own futures, including policies to help these nations strengthen domestic vulnerabilities and impose penalties on those violating their sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In their “Dear Colleague” letter Reps. Kaptur, Fitzpatrick, Harris and Levin also underscore that:

Since the fall of communism, the countries of Eastern Europe and Eurasia have made great progress to develop democratic institutions, free markets, and strong civil societies. Many have demonstrated their commitment to these important ideals through their accession in liberal institutions such as the NATO Alliance and the European Union, which are critical to our national security.

Indeed, the American people have stood with freedom-lovers across this region, to spread the blessings of liberty and democracy to these nations. For this reason, since 1959, the President of the United States has proclaimed the third week of July as “Captive Nations Week.” This very special occasion shined a light on the plight of nations oppressed by [the] Soviet Russian regime, and continues to reaffirm America’s commitment to those dedicated to democracy, rule of law, freedom, and justice.

Russia seeks to undermine democratic institutions, and thus strengthen its hold on that region through hybrid warfare. This includes election meddling, disinformation campaigns, extrajudicial assassinations, the intimidation of journalists, and other forms of despicable behavior. Russia invaded and illegally occupies regions of Ukraine and Georgia, and seeks to rip away these nations’ ability to choose their democratic future.

A fact sheet in support of the resolution which was prepared by the National Security Task Force of the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN), an initiative of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, states that “Russian aggression is everywhere. There are assaults on the democratic election processes in numerous countries, cyber warfare, pervasive, malignant propaganda and actual shooting warfare with resulting instability, loss of life and genuine fear in countries bordering Russia.” Russia’s neighbors have been and are “subject to [Moscow’s] open warfare and intrusion into [their] sovereign boundaries” with Russian military aggression in Ukraine leaving more than 10,000 people dead, explains FOUN.

The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation urges supporters of Ukraine to contact their congressional lawmakers and encourage them to sign on as a co-sponsor of H. J. Res. 139 on proclaiming a “Freedom to Choose their Destiny for the Nations of Eastern Europe and Eurasia Week.”

On October 18th the Atlantic Council will hold a conference related to this topic entitled Championing the Frontlines of Freedom: Erasing the “Grey Zone.  In describing the event the Atlantic Council writes:

The countries of Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine stand at a crossroads. Perched between Russia and the West, they have chosen a path of economic and political reform and closer relations with the West. They face substantial challenges dealing with the systemic legacy of the Soviet period as they pursue reform, while also confronting Kremlin interference in their affairs and occupation of their land. Once described as part of a geopolitical “grey zone,” these countries are working to instead be seen as states on the “frontlines of freedom” with futures as free, whole, and secure European states. At this conference, the Atlantic Council will convene a group of experts to discuss topics such as the historical origins of the so-called “grey zone,” the Kremlin’s use of frozen conflicts, transatlantic policy toward the region, and democratic progress in these states.

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