President wants Nato military response to any Russian cyberattack
A crippling Russian cyberattack on the Baltic republics should be met by a comprehensive Nato military response, the president of Estonia has said.
President Toomas Ilves told The Times that Nato had to be prepared not only for conventional or nuclear attacks, but also for an assault on its computers.
‘‘If you frizzle power stations, what’s the difference between that and a rocket attack?’’ he asked.
‘‘Shutting down a country with a cyberattack would be very difficult but not impossible. If you did that, why wouldn’t that be a case for Article 5 action?’’
Article 5, part of the 1949 North Atlantic treaty, states that armed action against an individual member is considered to be an assault on the whole alliance.
It has been invoked only once, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and does not stipulate exactly what kind of measures Nato should take in such a crisis.
In a wide-ranging interview, Ilves railed against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ‘‘useful idiots’’ within the European Union, such as Greece, Italy, Hungary and Cyprus, who are pressing for an easing of sanctions – and, he claims, disrupting the unity of the bloc.
A delegation of Russian intelligence veterans told US counterparts last month that Moscow was ready to respond – ‘‘in a spectrum from nuclear to non-military’’ – to any Nato buildup in the three Baltic republics.
The Russian spies suggested that Moscow was ready to draw on its substantial nuclear arsenal should the West provide assistance to help Ukraine take back Crimea.
‘‘It’s the ultimate irony that they are putting nuclear weapons in Crimea,’’ Ilves said.
‘‘Under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, the US, UK and Russia agreed to guarantee the territorial integrity of Ukraine in return for it getting rid of its nuclear weapons. Now Crimea is declared to be not part of Ukraine, and is being re-nuclearised.’’
Ilves said that lifting of sanctions against Moscow should be linked not to a ceasefire in Ukraine but to Putin radically changing direction in terms of general policy.
‘‘OK, he may stop shooting people, but he’s still there and he’s occupying territory.’’
There is concern in Nato and some EU states, including Britain, that Western solidarity on Ukraine is being prised apart by Russia. Some EU politicians, irritated by Ilves’ blunt speaking, have approached him, he says and asked: ‘‘So what do you want to do – bomb Russia?’’ Ilves, whose country has a population of 1.3 million and an army of no more than 6000, reassured critics: ‘‘I have no desire to bomb Russia.’’