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The Daily Vertical: On The Hybrid Front Lines (Transcript)


The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

In case you didn't notice, there will be important military exercises in Estonia this week.

They'll involve 700 participants from 25 NATO members and partner countries.

But there won't be any tanks. There won't be any artillery. And there won't be any infantry.

Instead, there will be a lot of people tapping away on laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

They'll be defending against malware, they'll be combating fake news on social media, and they'll be fending off threats to mobile devices.

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Cyber Coalition, which is NATO's flagship cyberdefense exercise, has been taking place annually for a decade now.

But given Russia's aggressive hacking campaign against the West in recent years, it has taken on a fresh urgency, a fresh visibility, and a fresh relevance.

And it is, of course, not surprising that the alliance is holding the drills in Estonia.

After all, back in 2007, Estonia was the first NATO member to suffer a massive cyberattack, which was widely believed to have been launched by Russia.

And since then, the tiny Baltic nation has become a leading innovator in cyberdefense.

In a new experimental program, Estonia is even giving qualified draftees in its armed forces the option of being cyber warriors instead of serving in the infantry.

And this year, in an effort to shore up its cyberdefenses, Estonia signed a deal to back up all of its government's data at the world's first "digital embassy" in Luxembourg.

For years now we've been hearing about Moscow's creative use of hybrid warfare.

It seems now, the West is getting serious about hybrid defense and hybrid containment.

And it's not surprising that the Estonians are leading the way.

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