Sunday, May 20, 2007
A three-week wave of massive cyber-attacks on the small Baltic country of Estonia, the first known incidence of such an assault on a state, is causing alarm across the western alliance, with Nato urgently examining the offensive and its implications.
While Russia and Estonia are embroiled in their worst dispute since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a row that erupted at the end of last month over the Estonians' removal of the Bronze Soldier Soviet war memorial in central Tallinn, the country has been subjected to a barrage of cyber warfare, disabling the websites of government ministries, political parties, newspapers, banks, and companies.
Nato has dispatched some of its top cyber-terrorism experts to Tallinn to investigate and to help the Estonians beef up their electronic defences.
"This is an operational security issue, something we're taking very seriously," said an official at Nato headquarters in Brussels. "It goes to the heart of the alliance's modus operandi."
Alarm over the unprecedented scale of cyber-warfare is to be raised tomorrow at a summit between Russian and European leaders outside Samara on the Volga.
While planning to raise the issue with the Russian authorities, EU and Nato officials have been careful not to accuse the Russians directly.
If it were established that Russia is behind the attacks, it would be the first known case of one state targeting another by cyber-warfare.
If the Russian state was smart, and I think Putin (as evil as he is) is rather smart. Then they would make sure that it is no part of the state that is attacking Estonia. Instead, they will claim it is criminals acting out of nationalism that are beyond the control of the Russian government. This way it is difficult for NATO to officially blame Russia for the attack.
As a further note, Estonia is part of what the Russians call their near abroad. This has been Russia's traditional sphere of influence. They have been the hegemon in the Eastern Baltic since the time of Peter the Great. They see NATO's penetration into this region as both an insult and a threat. The humiliation of Russia's loss of influence is a powerful motivator. I think that the humiliation is a more important factor than any national security calculations when it comes to Russia's dealings with the West and Its western abroad.
This situation is an important one. What Russia is trying to do is beat Estonia in line. Russia is trying to show that it is more important than NATO is and that Estonia must do what it says. In essence Russia is trying to turn Estonia into a client state. Since Estonia is a member of the EU and a member of NATO, we cannot allow this to happen. A NATO member is under attack we must defend. Now, it is under a non-traditional attack, which suggests a non-traditional response. What that would be I leave to others who are more creative then me.