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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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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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