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Press Release | Aug. 29, 2013

Estonian President Addresses National Defense University Students

Contact: Daniel Magalotti
Acting Public Affairs Officer
National Defense University

(Washington DC) Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves addressed the students, faculty, and staff of the National Defense University (NDU) on 29 August as part of NDU’s ongoing Distinguished Leader Program. President Ilves was invited to speak to the students by Dr. John Yaeger, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. The topic of President Ilves’s speech was “Zeppelins of the Cyber Age and Other Worries: A View from Estonia.”

President Ilves, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, was previously Estonia’s Ambassador to the United States from 1993 to 1996. He also served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1996 to 1998 and again from 1998 to 2002. A member of the Estonian parliament from 2002 to 2004, President Ilves was then elected to the European Parliament, where he was vice-president of the Foreign Affairs Committee. During his time as a member of the European Parliament, President Ilves initiated the European Union’s Baltic Sea Strategy. He was elected as President of Estonia in 2006 and reelected in 2011.

Since being elected to the office of President of Estonia, President Ilves has continued to serve the European Union. He has held positions on a number of bodies that aim implement Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Some of these positions include Chairman of the EU Task Force on eHealth (2011-2012) and Chairman of the European Cloud Partnership Steering Board (2012 – Present). President Ilves is especially interested in Estonia’s information technology development and cyber security.

During his address to the students, President Ilves commented on ongoing threats involving cybersecurity as well as the primacy of the transatlantic relationship as represented by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Using the 2007 distribution denial of service (DDOS) attacks in Estonia as a case study, the President noted, “In cyberspace, no country is an island, and no country has two oceans to protect it from conventional foreign threats. Military cyber attacks don’t present an existential threat to the functioning of societies, but civilian threats do.” Furthermore, President Ilves explained that unlike conventional military strikes, where the source can easily be traced, cyber attacks are difficult to attribute, making it challenging to know who the aggressor was. He extended this thought when referring to the high level of interoperability of forces when it came to more conventional military engagement, but that information sharing and intelligence sharing still lagged far behind.

Dr. John Yaeger was grateful to President Ilves for making time in his schedule to address NDU’s students on such a pertinent and important topic in today’s increasingly complex world of cybersecurity. After visiting NDU, President Ilves, along with the presidents of Latvia and Lithunia, will meet with President Obama on 30 August to discuss ways to strengthen the US-Baltic relationship.

NDU is the premier national security institution focused on advanced joint warfighter education, leader development, and scholarship. The University provides rigorous Joint Professional Military Education to members of the U.S. Armed Forces and select others in order to develop leaders who have the ability to operate and creatively think in an unpredictable and complex world. For more information about the National Defense University, please contact: Daniel Magalotti, Acting Public Affairs Officer, at 202-685-3140 or; or visit