My name is Aleksandrs Blūms and I spent this summer interning for the Joint Baltic American National Committee in Rockville, Maryland. I grew up in Jūrmala, Latvia and went to school in Riga. I spent my junior year of high school in Chicago and I’m currently in my last year of college in Southampton, United Kingdom. Before working for JBANC I interned for Pēteris Viņķelis in the office of MEP Sandra Kalniete at the European Parliament in Brussels and the Public Policy department of my university, helping our academics achieve impact with their research.
Since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, tensions have been rising with Russia, a country which many hoped would have been on a path of westernization. This event, and the war with Georgia, while not directly detrimental to the Baltic states did show the world that Russia has no respect for internationally recognized state borders, and that they are willing to use force to expand their influence whenever the opportunity arises. I believe Latvia (and the other Baltic states) could face an existential threat from Russia if the U.S. decided that protecting the Baltic States is no longer a priority.
Both my parents were active members of the independence movement in the late 80s and early 90s. They fought hard for Latvia to be a sovereign and independent state. I feel like it’s my patriotic duty to protect what my ancestors worked so hard to achieve. Ideals aside, interning for the Joint Baltic American National Committee was also a logical career move. Getting experience in lobbying in the world capital of lobbying (DC) not only looks great on my resume, but also has given me skills and experience that will be useful later in life, whatever career path I will choose. And finally, perhaps the best thing about working for JBANC was the opportunity to get to know a lot of people. I was in DC for only a month, but during that time I doubled my network of people to whom I can turn to if I ever need advice or help in a specific area.
After the Baltic states regained their independence, JBANC primarily concerned itself with ensuring NATO membership for Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. In the ten years since then, JBANC has drawn attention to human rights issues in Russia and Belarus, worked to explain the legacy of communism, and many other issues. But since tensions have heightened with Russia following the invasion of Ukraine in 2014, JBANC once again has an important role to play in helping to defend the Baltics and it is the place to be if you’re a young Latvian looking to do something for yourself and your country.
I strongly encourage everyone to apply for an internship there!