Putin's war on NATO

You know about the war, right? The war in which a nuclear-armed near superpower with 150 million inhabitants made an unprovoked attack on a neighbouring country with 1% of its population? That would be an attack on a NATO member, which all other NATO members are obligated to treat as an attack on them all.

In terms of moral and legal obligations, the UK, the USA, Germany . . . in fact all NATO members, have been attacked by Russia.

Here is what British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett had to say about the subject:

And here is what US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice had to say:

Wow! Withering, eh? I bet Vladimir Putin is stinging from that.

Being attacked by the Russians is, of course, nothing new for the Estonians. But they thought it was over. After more than 50 years of totalitarian occupation - mostly communist, but also three years of the Nazis - Estonia became a free country again in 1991. It is one of the most active and developed of the reform economies. Everyone is IT-savvy. Cabinet meetings take place over the internet. But its web hosting systems have been sabotaged by Moscow.

And why? Because Estonia does not wish to celebrate its oppression by Stalin.

Estonia was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1940, under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. When Hitler betrayed his alliance with Stalin and attacked the Soviet Union, the Germans drove the Russians out. They were initially welcomed by many Estonians, but turned out to be just as oppressive. When the Nazis were, in turn, driven out by the returning Soviet army Estonians can hardly have celebrated.

In 1991, when the Soviet Union was dissolved, Estonia regained its freedom. With admirable restraint, it has not pursued war crimes prosecutions against either Russians or Estonian collaborators. It has prosecuted collaborators with the Nazis, even though anyone left alive from that period must, of necessity, have been very junior at the time of any crimes they committed. The most senior Soviet collaborators, by contrast, are mostly still alive.

But this year Estonia decided to remove from prominent display in Talinn a statue to the "liberating" Red Army. The statue was not destroyed, it was removed to a military graveyard. The statue had for years been referred to in Estonia as a monument to "the unknown rapist", which gives a pretty fair idea of how the Red Army was regarded.

This apparently uncontroversial decision by a sovereign country - a member of the EU and NATO - has been the casus belli. The Russians launched a major cyber attack to cripple Estonia's economy and government.

So what are we to do? I am not advocating a nuclear attack on Russia, or any sort of military response. But NATO appears to be ignoring the issue entirely. Perhaps this is understandable. The alliance has no policy on cyber-attacks. Are they warfare or not? And if they are, then the legal obligation on other NATO members to defend Estonia is clear. So discussing the policy right now has potentially uncomfortable implications.

But that is what NATO is for. If one of its smaller members can be attacked at will, then it is not an alliance at all.

The silence has to end. Even if we are not prepared to DO anything, after two weeks surely it is long past time for our leaders to SAY something?

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