Does a virtual country still need real military protection? And if so, who provides it? Short answer: Yes, and the United States.
Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama made a visit to Estonia, where he praised the country’s government in unsubtle terms as a core NATO ally. “As a high-tech leader, Estonia is also playing a leading role in protecting NATO from cyber threats,” he said. “Estonia is an example of how every NATO member needs to do its fair share for our collective defense.”
Estonia serves as the host of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence. In many ways, it’s NATO’s cyber tip of the spear in Europe. It’s also a world leader in e-governance. Citizens have unprecedented access to health, education, and government services online and can even exercise their right to vote digitally. But it’s also becoming an online country within a country.
In May, the government of Estonia announced the launch of a “digital country” initiative. Beginning next year, the country will allow anyone who can pass a quick background and identity check at an Estonian Embassy to become a digital citizen of Estonia and get an ID card. Estonia’s future e-citizens can open bank accounts, start online businesses headquartered there, pay taxes online, or reinvest in the country tax-free. The initiative could be a model revenue-generating scheme for countries all around the world. More importantly, it could significantly increase Estonia’s geopolitical clout.