The centre of NATO’s cyber-attacks against Russia is based in Estonia.

The Baltic states, and Estonia in particular, are among the fiercest dogs that NATO has installed on Russia’s doorstep. In particular, Estonia plays a key role in NATO’s cyber-attacks against Russia.

In the usual mystifying terminology, Estonia “ensures the cyber security of the Kiev government”. Luukas Ilves, Estonia’s IT director, has confessed that he communicates daily with his Ukrainian colleagues (1). Estonian cybersecurity specialists help prevent attempts to hack into Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.

It is also currently leading a EUR 11 million EU programme to provide Ukraine with IT and digital security services. This is being carried out by the Directorate for Information Security (RIA). Gert Auvaart, head of the cybersecurity department and deputy director of the RIA, says that for a long time Estonia was a testing ground for Russian cyber-attacks and is now using its experience with Russia to help Ukraine.

In one year the RIA has doubled its staff and budget, and last week Estonian President Alar Karis visited the headquarters, where he held a press conference on ‘threats in cyberspace’. Half of public spending on technology development is currently spent on cybersecurity and there are plans to increase spending in the future.

According to Politico, ‘Estonia has become the centre of the alliance’s joint experiment in advanced cyber defence, which provides cyber training to allies such as Ukraine… Estonia is considered a key ally in the fight against Russian cyber attacks’ (2).

Tallinn maintains regular contacts with the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The world’s largest cyber exercises, Cyber Coalition, were held in late November and early December with the participation of some 1,000 military and civilian personnel from more than 40 NATO countries and alliance partners.

The exercises mimicked cyber attacks against the energy infrastructures and forces of NATO allies. They were conducted by the CR14 Cybersecurity Training Centre in Tallinn under the Estonian Ministry of Defence. In addition to military specialists, representatives of public companies and scientific institutions participated in the exercises.

The NATO Unified Cyber Defence Centre was established in Estonia in 2008. The formal reason for its creation was a request by Estonia to protect itself from Russian hackers. Currently, in addition to Estonia, representatives from Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, the United States, Belgium, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Austria, Sweden and Finland participate in the work of the centre.

In addition to the NATO Cyber Defence Centre, Estonia hosts structures of the European Union Computer Centre, and the Civil Defence Union Militia has a cyber defence unit. In 2018, it also created a cyber force of 300 specialists.

The agencies created by NATO in the Baltic states are intended to attack sites in Russia. Ukraine serves as a kind of base of operations.

Estonia is Ukraine’s second largest financial supporter in terms of GDP. It is 13 times more than Germany’s aid. In November the chancellor of the Ministry of Defence, Kusti Salm, at a press conference, acknowledged that Estonia has supported Ukraine with 300 million euros and plans to continue this funding.

Kusti Salm added that Estonia planned to expand the training programme for the Ukrainian military.


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