Books on Estonia
Update No: 318 - (27/06/07)
The seasoned political youngster
Estonian governments usually don't last very long. There have been thirteen
since independence in 1991. It doesn't matter too much because they all have had
basically the same ideas since then, namely do whatever the Russians tell you
not to do. Also stick to the young.
Andrus Ansip is the current Prime Minister of Estonia, who is doing better than
the average over two years after coming to office. At 50 he is rather older than
his predecessors, but still politically young in Western terms. His first
cabinet took office on April 12, 2005 after being approved by the Riigikogu by
53 members out of 101.
His cabinet was formed with pragmatic considerations in mind, as it consisted of
ministers from different positions on the political spectrum, the free market
liberal Reform Party of Estonia, which presses for reform, the more populist and
personalist Estonian Centre Party and the even more populist agrarian People's
Union of Estonia.
The Reform Party and the People's Union had participated in the previous
government lead by Juhan Parts (of the conservative Res Publica). Parts resigned
on March 24, 2005 after his Minister of Interior Ken-Marti Vaher (also members
of Res Publica) was sacked by the Riigikogu. The continuity of Estonian politics
is shown by the fact that Parts is now the Economics Minister, as demanding and
vital a job as the premiership itself.
The first cyber-war in history
Estonia is in a serious spat with Russia. The recent cyber attacks on
Estonian government networks were likely carried out by politically motivated
hacker gangs, not Russian security agencies, as some early reports suggested,
according to assessments conducted by the U.S. government and the private
sector. The cyber attacks hit Web sites across the country, from newspapers to
schools to the defence ministry, and appear to have stemmed initially from
Russia, where the Kremlin has denied waging a cyber war against Estonia.
The cyber attacks coincided with a sharp deterioration in relations between
Moscow and the small Baltic state over Estonia's decision to relocate a
Soviet-era war memorial from the centre of the capital Tallinn. The decision
enraged Moscow, which threatened sanctions. Street clashes between police and
Russian speakers broke out and the Internet sites of the president's office,
parliament, ministries, newspapers and banks were jammed. The attacks peaked on
May 8 and 9--during events in Russia and the Baltics marking the anniversary of
the World War Two victory over the Nazis.
A bit of diplomacy
"It is clear this is criminal activity. I hope Russia will co-operate
in those cases with Estonia," Ansip told a news conference in Helsinki.
The official Estonian position is that the Kremlin is not behind it. Indeed an
official Kremlin source insists this is so. But, in the immortal words of
Christine Keeler: "He would, wouldn't he?"
The Estonian justice minister, less diplomatically, insists that he is convinced
the Kremlin was behind the cyber attacks, indeed that the Russians even had the
cheek to use obvious Kremlin-based computers for the job, which is not to say
that there was not some private Russian mischief-making going on too.
The brazen way someone in Russia ordered the death of Litvinenko last year in
London by turning him into a nuclear device was making it quite clear, despite
official denials, that somebody high up was behind it all. The cyber war is
reminiscent of that.
The first cyber-war in history revisited
It is possible that the highest in the Kremlin are not responsible after
all, but rogue elements therein. Such seems to be the upshot of authoritative
views in the US.
The attacks were crude so-called distributed denial of service, or DDoS,
attacks, utilizing global networks, or botnets, of compromised computers, known
as slaves, or zombies, often owned by careless individuals, 'including some in
the United States,' according to a statement from Mike Witt, deputy director of
the US Cyber Emergency Response Team.
The team, known by the acronym US-CERT, is the element within the Department of
Homeland Security that 'coordinates defence against and responses to cyber
attacks across the nation,' according to its Web site.
'US-CERT became involved after NATO, of which Estonia is a member, contacted the
US for computer incident response assistance to a cyber attack,' said Witt in
the statement. His team 'worked with an international group -- the Forum of
Incident Response and Security Teams, or FIRST -- to coordinate a global
response to the attacks, which were carried out by computers scattered across
the globe,' he said.
The Witt statement did not address the question of the origin of the attacks,
but former senior US cybersecurity official Bruce Brody said analysts in both
the private sector and the US government had told him 'the prevailing
assessment' was that no 'state actor' was behind the attacks. 'This was a brute
force, crude attack,' he told UPI, 'without the elegance and precision'
characterizing the sophisticated cyber-warfare capabilities of major powers.
Professor James Hendler, former chief scientist at the Pentagon`s Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency, described the attacks as 'more like a cyber
riot than a military attack.'
Such politically motivated attacks by organized hacker networks -- known to
specialists as 'hactivism' -- were also seen against Danish Web sites after the
publications of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a magazine there.
'The size of the cyber attack, while it was certainly significant to the
Estonian government, from a technical standpoint is not something we would
consider significant in scale,' said Witt, adding he believed the United States
would be able to defend itself easily against attacks on a similar scale. 'While
no one is immune to cyber attacks,' he said US government networks were 'more
sophisticated, extensive and diverse,' making them 'less susceptible to
disruptions or attacks.'
DDoS attacks work by getting the networks of slave computers to bombard the
systems being attacked with requests for information -- overloading them and
causing the Web servers to crash.
Hendler told UPI that DDoS attacks 'are moving lower and lower down the list of
(cyber) threats,' but added this was generally because they are poorly targeted.
Like any other weapon, he said, the effectiveness of DDoS attacks could be
maximized by careful targeting -- for instance, of a crucial system at a
particular time it was likely to be very busy, or vulnerable to overload for
some other reason.
'You could do it surgically,' he said. 'If you did some work, you could probably
find information-critical (US government) systems that could be brought down ...
with a big enough attack.'
On the other hand, he said, 'the government is pretty attuned to the
possibilities of these types of attacks' and had taken extensive
Witt said a key challenge in countering botnets was identifying the source, 'in
part because of sophisticated new peer-to-peer type structures now being adopted
By employing so-called peer-to-peer technology, 'where the network is recruited
and organized horizontally, from one compromised computer to another, rather
than vertically, with each reaching back to the origin, it is much more
difficult to track and source the hackers behind the attacks,' he said.
Investment agreement inked with Cambodian city
Cambodia's major seaport city and travel destination, Sihanoukville, signed an
agreement with Estonia's tourism city, Maardu, to seek mutual investment and
cooperation, local media reported on May 18, cited by English People's Daily
"This agreement will help improve the investment and development
cooperation between the two cities," Cambodian daily newspaper the Koh
Sonthephea quoted Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak as saying. While signing the
agreement on May 16th, Maardu Mayor Georgy Bystrov showed appreciation for the
achievements of Sihanoukville, according to the paper. During his trip to
Sihanoukville, Bystrov visited the industrial, commercial, tourism and cultural
areas of the city, as well as the seaport, the paper added.
Emperor Akihito receives warm welcome on Baltics visit
On May 24th, Japan's Emperor Akihito arrived in Estonia on the first visit of a
Japanese ruler to the Baltic states. The 73-year-old monarch and his wife,
Empress Michiko, were welcomed to the smallest and northernmost of the three
Baltic states by 53-year-old President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and his wife,
Eveli, New Europe reported.
In a ceremony at the Estonian presidential palace of Kadriorg, the emperor was
introduced to the Estonian government and leading civil and military dignitaries
on an overcast and blustery day. Watched by an estimated 150 onlookers, he
inspected a guard of honour before proceeding to a state dinner in the palace.
Kadriorg is itself an imperial building, having been founded by Russia's tsar
Peter I and named after his wife Catherine.
During their meeting, the emperor and president presented one another with their
national orders of merit, the Japanese Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum and
the Estonian Terra Mariana Cross, presidential spokeswoman Kristel Peterson was
cited by dpa as confirming. And they exchanged complimentary toasts before
proceeding to a concert given by massed children's choirs.
"I am glad to acknowledge that our peoples hold many similar and
everlasting values. We highly value peace and the opportunity for free self-realisation
- these are natural parts of being a person," Ilves was quoted as telling
his guests. "Your country, as a part of Europe, has resolutely travelled
the road towards democratisation, as well as economic and social development;
and I would like to express my sincere esteem for the profound wisdom and
perseverance of the Estonian people," the emperor replied, according to a
presidential press release.
The concert was held at the Estonian Song Festival grounds, an open-air arena
capable of housing 100,000 people. A choir of some 2,500 schoolchildren sang
songs dating from Estonia's struggle for independence from the USSR to an equal
number of listeners. "Singing is the most important Estonian tradition.
It's the best way to welcome him," a schoolboy named Oskar was quoted as
saying in a comment echoed by many other listeners.
And the emperor then made a brief public appearance at Tallinn's mediaeval town
hall, where a crowd of several hundred people gathered to catch a glimpse of the
world's only emperor. "It's important for a country as small as Estonia to
have such guests. It's a very, very important visit," the Estonian wife of
one of the country's top sushi producers, Tagi Hammaja, was quoted by dpa as
saying. The emperor's visit has been interpreted in the Estonian media as a rare
compliment to the small country (population 1.35 million), which joined the
European Union and NATO in 2004.
In the 18 years since he ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne, the emperor has
visited 19 countries, according to the website of the Imperial Household Agency,
dpa reported. The current visit comes as part of a five-country tour of Sweden,
the Baltic states and the UK.
Widening trade gap in March
Robust increase in vehicle imports led to a widening trade gap for the Estonian
economy in March, recent official statistics showed, sptimes reported
Estonia's trade deficit widened by an annual 24 percent in March. The March
deficit increased to 4.6 billion kroons (US$400 million), up from a revised 3.2
billion kroons in February and 3.7 billion kroons in March of last year, the
Tallinn-based statistics agency said in an e-mailed statement on May 28th.