On the rights of small countries

Dateline 06 June 2007

Imagine you live in a small country of 1.3 million people – the same as Maine or New Hampshire. Imagine that next door (to the east) is a country 100 times larger. Further south and west, another country some 60 times your size. Almost 300 years ago, your country was conquered by your eastern neighbor, though it had previously been under the control of a maritime country lying to your west. There followed over 200 years of occupation. Between the end of the first world war and the beginning of the second your country was independent. This was followed by another 50 years of brutal occupation.

You would think, I suppose, that your recent (1991) independence was precarious. You would have sought guarantees from friendly countries committed to democracy and human rights. Fortunately, you got them. Your country is a member of the European Union and of NATO. Any military attack on a NATO country is an attack on all. All are obliged to come to its defense.

But tiny Estonia – the country of which I write – has been neglected by its allies. NATO would rather not acknowledge that Estonia has been attacked, for if it does, it will be obliged by its charter to act.

Estonia has made more of its recent freedom than any other ex-communist country. It is one of the most IT-savvy countries in the world. All cabinet members take laptops to meetings. If they are not in Estonia at the time they log in to the cabinet by videoconference. Its economy is rapidly catching up with the west. It has already overtaken Portugal and its people are 50% wealthier than Russians. Culturally, and, increasingly, economically, Estonia is more aligned with Finland (one of the richest countries in the world, and home to cell-phone giant Nokia) than with Russia.

But the scars of the past are still there. When Hitler and Stalin divided eastern Europe between them, Estonia was given to Stalin. When Hitler betrayed his pact with the Soviets and attacked the USSR, German troops drove the Russians out. At first the Nazis were welcomed as liberators, but they turned out to be as brutal as the communists. When the Soviets returned three years later, no-one in Estonia can have held out much hope for freedom.

The Soviets erected an enormous bronze statue to celebrate the ‘liberation’ of Estonia – in reality the exchange of one foreign occupation for another. In Estonian – a language no Russians speak – it was always called the “memorial to the unknown rapist”.

Now the statue has been moved from its prominent display in Talinn to a military cemetery. This understandable and inconsequential decision by a sovereign country has driven the Russians into a fevered fury. The Russian government has ordered a blizzard of attacks on Estonia’s highly developed IT-infrastructure. Commercial and government targets in Estonia – including their parliament and the president’s office – have had their internet service destroyed by a concerted military attack.

And it is to this assault which NATO must respond. The Senate has passed some waffling resolution, but Secretary of State has yet to even make a statement on the issue – even though our NATO ally was first attacked weeks ago. This is war. If the Pentagon doesn’t have a cyber-warfare division, then it should have. And it is long past time for the State Department and White House to clearly condemn this aggression.



Quentin Langley is editor of http://www.quentinlangley.net an academic at the University of Cardiff and is a columnist with Campaigns & Elections. This article was first published in the Common Sense series for Lake Champlain Weekly.

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