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A New Kind of War

Published: May 25, 2007 (Issue # 1274)




  • Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

And now for a quick quiz: A European country a member in good standing of NATO and the European Union has recently suffered multiple attacks on its institutions. Can you (a) name the country, (b) describe the attacks and (c) explain what NATO is doing in response?

If you cant, dont worry: NATO itself doesnt quite know what it is doing about the attacks, despite the alliances treaty, which declares that an armed attack on one of its members is an attack against them all. The country is Estonia a very small, very recent member of NATO; the attacks are taking place in cyberspace; and while the perpetrators arent exactly unknown, their identities cant be proved either.

Which creates a dilemma, or rather several: Is this an armed attack? Is the NATO alliance obliged to respond? And if yes, how? None of these questions have clear answers. And if you thought that terrorists headquartered in ungovernable bits of the undeveloped world were the Wests worst problem, think again.

To add an extra layer of complication to this story, its important to understand that its origins lie not in the high-tech cyber-future but in the Cold War past. Several weeks ago, the Estonian government decided to move a bronze statue of a Soviet soldier from its place in the center of Tallinn to a cemetery outside of town, together with the remains of the Soviet soldiers who had been buried beneath it. That might not sound like a casus belli, but to the Russian minority in Estonia, most of whose families arrived in the country after the Red Army drove the Germans out in 1945, that statue had become a rallying point, as well as a justification of their right to remain. To the Estonians, one-tenth of whom were deported to Siberia after 1945, the statue had become a symbol of half a century of Soviet occupation and oppression. When the statue was removed, a riot ensued; an ethnic Russian protester was killed; hooligans attacked the Estonian ambassador in Moscow; and, a few days later, web sites of the Estonian government, banks and newspapers began to go down.

Elsewhere this might not have mattered quite so much. A defense information specialist from another newish NATO member state told me, somewhat ruefully, that his country wouldnt be vulnerable to a cyber-attack because so little of its infrastructure is sophisticated enough to use the Internet. But Estonia e-Stonia to its fans practices forms of e-government advanced even by Western European standards. Estonians pay taxes online, vote online, bank online. Their national ID cards contain electronic chips. When the countrys cabinet meets, every member carries a laptop. When denial-of-service attacks start taking down Estonian web sites, it matters.

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Wednesday, Apr. 16


Learn more about AmChams efforts during the Joint Manufacturing, and Investment and Legal Committees Meeting today at 9 a.m. Check their website for more information about the event.


Today marks the beginning of IPhEB and CPhI Russia 2014, an international forum for the pharmaceutical industry and biotechnology that will be at LenExpo today and tomorrow. Those both already established in the industries and hoping to start a career are encouraged to attend and network with their colleagues.


Thursday, Apr. 17


Expocenter Eurasia at 13 Ulitsa Kapitan Voronin is the sight of Goods on the Way, a five-day event starting today showcasing the latest in the industrial products industry. Bags, backpacks, swimsuits and much, much more will be available to attendees hoping to update not only their style but their accessories for the upcoming summer.


Friday, Apr. 18


Teachers and students alike shouldnt miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.


The Tromso International Film Festival, Norways largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).


Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianitys holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the deserts most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDAs Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBAs Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.