D.C. cities reconsider relationship with Russian sister cities
After Governor Inslee called on state agencies to sever ties with Russia last month, cities in Washington must now decide whether they will also cut ties with their Russian sister cities, an action that fell in an area gray for many cities in the country.
At his February 28 press conference, Governor Inslee requested that “all of our state agencies conduct an inventory to identify any commercial or other connections with Russian state institutions or significant Russian companies for the purpose of terminate or cancel them and not let them go forward.”
State lawmakers have also introduced a bill that would terminate contracts with any Russian-based entity for diverting state funds to Russian entities.
But sister cities remain a gray area, as no public funding is used to support the cities. So far, Colorado Springs, Colorado; Des Moines, Iowa; Dallas, TX; and Chicago, Illinois have all severed ties with their Russian sister cities to condemn Russian aggression and show support for Ukraine. Many others are still in deliberation.
So far, Governor Inslee has left Washington cities to determine whether or not they will end their relationship with Russian sister cities.
“We wouldn’t have a position on sister city relations,” Mike Faulk, deputy director of communications for the governor’s office, told the Lynnwood Times. “These types of relationships are meant to promote goodwill between people. These types of partnerships are unlikely to benefit the state or the oligarchy,” he added.
Relations between the cities of Washington and Russia Sister City
Sister Cities International, the organization that has connected 1,800 cities in 138 countries, recently issued a letter “to citizen diplomats” asking that Sister Cities’ relations with Russian cities not be severed as a symbol of support for the ‘Ukraine.
“Although suspending or ending a relationship with a sister city to register disapproval of the actions of a foreign government may seem, at first glance, like positive political protest action, it has the completely opposite effect – close a vital communication channel and, often, the last with vulnerable or isolated populations,” the letter reads.
In fact, many cities in Washington have had sister relationships with countries under other authoritarian regimes, including several in China and two in Uzbekistan. The sister cities of these countries are seen as a way to understand, influence and communicate with the citizens of authoritarian nations, but now only the sister cities of Russia are involved.
Currently, several cities in Washington have relationships with Russian sister cities, including Everett, Anacortes, Bellingham, Tacoma, and La Conner. So far, none have explicitly cut ties with their Russian sister cities.
Everett, who was previously associated with Russia’s Sovetskaya Gavan, allowed the sister city relationship to dissolve over time with no plans to renew the contract.
“We haven’t had any communication with the city since 2013,” communications director Julio Cortes told the Lynnwood Times. The city will update its sister city web page and its official Wikipedia page to reflect this change.
Anacortes, on the other hand, recently voted to maintain ties with its sister city Lomonosov, Russia, while simultaneously voting to remove the Russian flag from its sister city’s flag display.
“Fly the Russian flag that is currently on the tanks that are attacking people, without provocation – I would advocate removing the flags from displays in the city currently,” an Anacortes council member said at a council meeting. municipal.
“The Russian flag, I guess, is the flag of the Russian people, but it’s also the flag of the Russian state,” said another council member, seated in front of the flag. “And so it bothers me, actually, to be sitting in that chair right now.”
Bellingham and Tacoma officials also said they had no plans to sever ties with their Russian sister cities of Nakhodka and Vladivostok, respectively.
“This idea of sister cities that was created by President Eisenhower after World War II was largely based on the idea that if we became friends with people in foreign countries, we would be less inclined to engage in the kind of things that are happening in Russia, and I’m a big believer in that idea,” Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood said at a February 28 town council meeting.
“The people of our sister city in Russia are our friends, and they are the Russian people. Our beef is of course with the dictator in Russia. I will make no effort to sever ties,” he said.
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards expressed a similar sentiment, saying the city’s relationships with Vladivostok, Russia, and Brovary, Ukraine, have been beneficial experiences for the city.
“Sister City Committees have always emphasized how fortunate we are to have had warm city-to-city relationships with the residents of Brovary, Ukraine, and Vladivostok, Russia,” Mayor Woodards said. “Tacoma is and will continue to be a deeply compassionate city as we reflect on the fact that when countries go to war, it is people who suffer. What people want is peace.
The La Conner City Council is the only city in Washington that has not yet decided whether it will sever ties with its sister city, Olga, in Russia.