Moscow: Past is Present
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Soviet-style intimidation and infiltration are again becoming instruments of State policy for Moscow. For the “new” Russia, the line is blurring between what was and what is.
From April 29, 2007 until about May 18, the Baltic nation of Estonia was crippled by the first recorded instance of a mass cyber assault directed against websites of an independent State.
Despite official Russian denials, the Estonian Defense Ministry identified the first attacks as originating from the Russian Federation, with some of the cyber assaults coming from Russian government sites. NATO and the United States have attempted to assist Estonia in blunting the attacks, and also worked to understand how they were carried out.
Later attacks came from other areas, and the Estonian defense minister, Jaak Aavikoo, refused to characterize the attack as a confrontation between his nation and Russia, but the attacks against Estonia’s banks, telecommunications companies, Internet service providers, and other media outlets reached a peak on May 9, the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s surrender, celebrated with great solemnity in Russia as Victory Day.
Estonia angered Russia when they recently removed the memorial honoring WWII Soviet soldiers from its capital, Tallinn.
Estonia had defied Moscow by removing a memorial to Soviet WWII soldiers. Most Estonians found the monument an unhappy reminder of Soviet communist domination from 1940 to 1991.Moscow bitterly denounced the decision as a “blasphemous” attack on the memory of troops who had “liberated” Europe from the Nazis.
From almost the same moment that the Soviet monument was removed, Estonia was the target of a series of crippling cyber attacks on that nation’s computer and information systems. A powerful message was sent to the people of Estonia that the memory of Soviet military forces is to be respected, and its role during and after WWII is not to be questioned.
Moscow has never admitted any wrongdoing in its 1940 occupation of the Baltic States, which include Lithuania and Latvia as well as Estonia.
Although Moscow loudly proclaims its role in defeating Nazism, the Soviet takeover of the Baltic States occurred while the USSR was an ally of Hitler, supplying the Nazi war machine with needed raw materials, and after congratulating the German high command on its conquest of France.
Among the Russian people and elite, there is a reverie about the Soviet Union and those who were part of it. Putin, an ex-KGB spymaster, has often praised Soviet accomplishments and is again praising Soviet heroes, even on postage stamps. The mass murderer Josef Stalin is once more a respected, even admired, figure in Russia.
Moscow’s return to old Soviet ways, however, goes beyond Soviet nostalgia, or acts of intimidation.
Moscow is again unleashing an espionage campaign against the United States at a level unprecedented since the Cold War. Russian spies are targeting U.S. military secrets and high-tech research, with some Russian intelligence personnel operating under diplomatic cover, while others work through Russian corporations to hide their activities.
Russian President Putin, left, and Chinese President Jiang Zemin, right, toast their "strategic partnership"
Moscow cooperates closely with Cuban intelligence services, which also supplies its information on the United States to communist China.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Moscow has been Beijing’s major arms supplier and a dependable source of technical training. By 2005, the cooperation between Russia and China had risen to the level of large-scale joint military exercises. Russia’s assistance to China’s navy has opened the very real possibility that Beijing may one day soon successfully challenge the U.S. in the Pacific.
Moscow is sending arms and expertise to assist anti-American regimes around the world, from North Korea to communist Cuba and neo-Marxist Venezuela.
Although the Soviet Union collapsed nearly 16 years ago, Moscow is still the arsenal of nations hostile to the U.S., continues to use espionage to compromise U.S. security, and remains ready to use intimidation to dominate its smaller neighbors.
Posted June 11, 2007
Toby Westerman edits and publishes
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