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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

Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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