Toomas Hendrik Ilves Quotes

  1. Democracy is messy, clearly, but it has one key factor, which is an orderly transfer of power.
  2. In cyberwarfare, it is much harder to identify the attacker and, therefore, to know how to retaliate.
  3. It is hard to work with the nagging doubt that perhaps some foreign intelligence agency is reading all your correspondence, especially when you know they have done so in the past.
  4. I was the child of refugees.
  5. Liberal democracies do not and often cannot respond in kind to cyberattacks on their own way of governance.
  6. When Estonia reestablished its sovereignty after a half century of successive thuggish, totalitarian, foreign occupations by the Soviets, the Nazis, and then again the Soviets, we knew we wanted to create a democratic country characterized by rule of law and respect for human rights.
  7. Cybersecurity needs to be taken seriously by everyone.
  8. In Russia, tweeting or sharing real news that’s embarrassing to the regime can land you in prison. Imagine, then, the response of the regime to ‘fake news’ that’s damaging to the Kremlin.
  9. The whole information and communication technologies (ICT) infrastructure must be regarded as an ‘ecosystem’ in which everything is interconnected. It functions as a whole; it must be defended as a whole.
  10. I realised that if we were not in the E.U., there were people in the E.U. who were also members of NATO that would veto our joining NATO.
  11. People who come out of the liberal arts don’t have an understanding of science and technology, and the people in science and technology have very little experience with liberal arts and the traditions of a liberal democracy.
  12. Big data knows and can deduce more about you than Big Brother ever could.
  13. Democracies stand on several key pillars: Free and fair elections, human rights, the rule of law, and a free untrammeled media. Until 2016, an open media was seen as a resilient democratic pillar that supported the others.
  14. People have actually figured out that Estonia is one of the few post-Communist countries that has a genuine image in people’s minds as being something.
  15. The minute a collective alliance fails to live up to its agreement to collective defence, then from that moment on, everybody is on the run.
  16. Can the wider West establish a global ‘cyber NATO?’ It would be difficult, but so, too, was the founding of NATO itself, which was called into being only after successive communist coups in Eastern Europe.
  17. Because of cyberattacks and fake news, we can already imagine the problem all democratic societies will face in future elections: how to limit lies when they threaten democracy?
  18. My American undergraduate education probably gave me a better idea of the fundamentals of what European civilization is about, better than the undergraduate education you get at most European universities.
  19. Where a country lies is a subjective decision and only in part a product of its own desire. Much, if not most, is determined by what others believe about it.
  20. The problem of online identity is expressed best in an old ‘New Yorker’ cartoon with a picture of a dog next to a computer, and the dog says, ‘No one online knows you’re a dog.’
  21. If getting young people computer-literate through putting school systems online is a no-brainer, at least in retrospect, getting older people and those in rural areas online can be a tougher nut to crack.
  22. Since I’ve been writing about things my entire life, I thought, ‘Well, that’s what I would do as a president is to read and then write and talk about things that are interesting to me.’
  23. I’ve been in and out of academia ever since I was young.
  24. Little by little, we’re becoming a boring Nordic country.
  25. Brits, Scandinavians, Finns, Estonians consider themselves rational, logical, unencumbered by emotional arguments; we are businesslike, stubborn, and hard-working.
  26. Generally, people’s fear and hesitancy regarding greater computerization comes from a George Orwell/’1984′-based metaphor of a single computer or data base where all your information is stored, knows everything about you, and can use this information at will and for evil purposes.
  27. Digital warfare, in the Clausewitz definition as ‘the continuation of policy by other means,’ reached Western public consciousness via my own country, Estonia, in 2007 when our governmental, banking, and news media servers were hit with ‘distributed denial-of-service attacks,’ which is when hackers overload servers until they shut down.
  28. I remember starting to read about the Soviet Union when I was eight years old; I think I was reading my father’s ‘New York Times.’
  29. In a modern digitalized world, it is possible to paralyze a country without attacking its defense forces: The country can be ruined by simply bringing its SCADA systems to a halt. To impoverish a country, one can erase its banking records. The most sophisticated military technology can be rendered irrelevant. In cyberspace, no country is an island.
  30. I’m an American by accent, and I grew up in the States, living there between the age of three and 24.
  31. Diplomacy between a powerful, victorious army and a side that’s losing doesn’t really work well.
  32. There is no Baltic identity with a common culture, language group, religious tradition.
  33. The Soviet Union collapsed without a lot of people thinking it should or would, whereas for Estonia, it was something we’d been praying for for 60 years.
  34. That was something that shaped my thinking regarding Estonia: the idea that we should be getting our young people to work with computers.
  35. It’s much cheaper to influence elections than it is to go to war.
  36. In both Russia and the U.S., there are a very small number of very, very rich people, and then there are a lot of people who don’t have anything. The less inequality you have in a society, the more social peace you have. It’s kind of a no-brainer.
  37. The domestic policy of any president, U.S. or otherwise, is his or her own concern, as long as democratic norms are followed.
  38. The E-government cabinet, E-health services, online voting, online pre-filled tax returns, e-mobile parking, are all examples of Estonian innovation, but far more importantly, they are examples of the transformative power of intensive and extensive use of Information Technology in the public sector.
  39. The fake news is – I mean, as a tool of warfare – has been there for decades and decades and decades. It was never very well done until, really, the Ukraine, though I would say that the Russians used to complain about fake things to say the State Department.
  40. I’m not afraid of code. I mean, I understand how these things work. I thought that that was the one area where Estonia was playing on a level playing field.
  41. When hackers have access to powerful computers that use brute force hacking, they can crack almost any password; even one user with insecure access being successfully hacked can result in a major breach.
  42. I was surprised by some of my French colleagues who immediately assumed that because I spoke English with an American accent, that, therefore, you must be a supporter of whoever is the current president of the United States. There seems to be this widespread feeling that, ‘Oh, American accent – therefore, you like cowboy boots.’
  43. The thing people forget is that the entire world – or, at least, Europe, U.S., transatlantic, Russia, Soviet Union – that security architecture has been in place since 1945 and has been refined. Already, the U.N. charter that everyone signed is that you can’t change borders through use of force or even threat of use of force.
  44. The Russian Federation’s practice of instant citizenship, whereby Russian passports are distributed willy-nilly to ethnic Russians abroad so they can be ‘protected’ in their current homeland, is unacceptable. Passports are travel documents, not a tool to justify aggression.
  45. George Bush and I share a love of steel brush cutters. It turns out we use the same professional brush cutter. He asked me what I did. I said I cut brush. He says, ‘Oh, what do you use?’ I said steel. He goes, ‘Oh, me too.’
  46. Nothing costs more than the loss of freedom.
  47. Everything can be known and, in some cases, everything is known.
  48. The rights that people have offline must also be protected online.
  49. Fake news is cheap to produce. Genuine journalism is expensive.
  50. In Germany, a country that for obvious reasons is far more attuned than most to the dangers of demagogy, populism, and nationalism, lawmakers have already proposed taking legal measures against fake news. When populist, nationalist fake news threatens the liberal democratic center, other Europeans may follow suit.
  51. When our diplomats go abroad, they are surprised that they can’t do the things that they can do here.
  52. There was a period in my life when I was very young that I wrote a sonnet a day just to learn concision in writing.
  53. Social media has become a primary factor in political campaigns.
  54. Russia has had very aggressive military exercises. They’ve practiced mock nuclear attacks on Warsaw. Russian bombers practiced attacking strategic military targets in Sweden. The military aggression gets everybody nervous.
  55. When your country is in dire straits, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a social democrat or not.
  56. Until defense of democracy in the digital era is taken up by governments collectively, both in NATO and outside the alliance, liberal democracies will remain vulnerable to the cyberthreats of the 21st century.
  57. I knew who Bruce Springsteen was before he had his first record.
  58. Sanctions work over time. They do work, but it takes years for them to have an effect.
  59. We Estonians will do what is necessary to join the European Union.
  60. The first time cyber was even a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference, which is – I mean, we’ve got hundreds of specialists there – was 2011. That’s how long it took.

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