Atlantic Council

The Seventh Annual Christopher J. Makins Lecture featuring Toomas Hendrik Ilves

Frederick Kempe,
President and CEO,
Atlantic Council

Toomas Hendrik Ilves,
Former President (2006-2016),
Republic of Estonia

Susan Glasser,

Location: Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.

Time: 6:00 p.m. EST
Date: Thursday, February 9, 2017

Transcript By

Superior Transcriptions LLC

FREDERICK KEMPE:  Welcome.  Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council.  Welcome to the Seventh Annual Christopher J. Makins Lecture, which isn’t a totally accurate statement because we do do it more or less annually and this is the seventh, but in some years we may do more than one and so what we try to do is capture the most important speaker to deliver a lecture on behalf of a person that many in this room knew and loved.  And all in this room who knew Christopher J. Makins had the deepest respect for him. 

So we launched this annual lecture in honor of the memory of the Atlantic Council’s former president, Christopher J. Makins.  It’s wonderful to see Wendy and a number of Wendy’s friends here.  Thank you so much.  It’s such an honor to continue to do this.  I’ve often told Wendy one of my great – or maybe even need this in my wiki – is that Christopher approved of me.  And that was very – that was incredibly important to me.

WENDY MAKINS:  He didn’t just approve of you – (off mic).

MR. KEMPE:  Well – (laughs) – thank you, Wendy.  There are times – there are times when I mention his name and I just hear his laughter.  And it just was the most unique and remarkable laugh, that just filled the room with his spirit and his energy.  I’m also really happy to have my dear friend, Jan Lodal here, who was so much a driver of this lecture.  And Christopher would have been delighted to hear that you recruited me – is it called halftime at the opera?  No, I guess it’s intermission, isn’t it, actually?  (Laughs.)  But at a break during Parsifal at the Metropolitan Opera. 

The donors of this lecture, who are in attendance – Fran Burwell, Michael and Victoria Carns, Michael Higgins, Elliott Jones, Jennifer Urquhart, Elizabeth Lodal, Boyden Gray, John Macomber, Walter Slocombe, Paula Stern, and yours truly.  If any of the rest of you would like to contribute to making this lecture sustainable, to make it go on, as we hope it will, forever, you can send a note to Vicente Garcia,, or just go to the contribution page on the Atlantic Council’s website.

By providing a platform for discussion and by stimulating provocative discourse of the importance of the Atlantic alliance, the lecture carries on Christopher’s extraordinary heritage and vision of Atlanticism.  His example has perhaps never been more important than it is today.  Europe is challenged from the east, it is challenged from the south, it is challenged centrifugally.  I’m not going to try to guess what President Ilves will talk about, but we have had a year of Brexit last year and then French, Dutch, German elections coming up this year.  It’s an understatement to say that we live in historic times.

On our side of the Atlantic, President Trump’s rhetoric and actions have opened questions about the style and the extent of America’s role in the world and how it’s going to be defined in this administration.  We are finding receptive voices and individuals in the administration, where we have found that we can continue to advance what we care about and have always cared about at the Atlantic Council.  And we’re working very hard at that today. 

The challenges are great, but together the United States and Europe have weathered challenges before.  Working together, the United States and Europe advanced democracy, freedom and security, not only within our own borders but around the world.  No matter what we face, we have always been and always be stronger with our allies.  And in these crucial and historic times, the Atlantic Council’s doubling down even more in engagement with our friends and allies around the world.  People talk about the dangers of the breakdown of the international liberal order, but the creation of the Atlantic Council was at the heart of it.  And the founders and the architectures of the Atlantic Council were also the founders and architects of that liberal order, which has brought us 70 years of an extraordinary period of peace among major powers, and progress, and advancement of democracy.

Christopher Makins embodied the very best of Atlanticism.  You can read in your programs about his long career to advance the transatlantic alliance, but he also had a great personal impact on the Atlantic Council and its missions.  So thanks again to his wife, who I’m honored is here.  Christopher’s life, work and spirit continue to thrive through this lecture series.  To date, the lecture has hosted some of the most prominent Atlanticists of our times, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Henry Kissinger, Lord George Roberston, and General Brent Scowcroft.  President Ilves, you are a fitting continuation of this great list of speakers.

Like Christopher, President Ilves’ life represents what it means to be transatlantic.  Born to an Estonian family living in Sweden, and later educated at Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, he has lived and worked on both sides of the Atlantic and understands both perspectives on the U.S.-European relationship.  From 1993 to 1996, he served as Estonia’s ambassador to the United States and Canada before being twice appointed minister of foreign affairs.  After serving for two years in the Estonian parliament, he was elected a member of the European parliament in 2004, where he served as vice president of the Foreign Affairs Committee. 

He rose to the presidency of Estonia in 2006, and was reelected in 2011 to a second term.  During his presidency, he not only led his country to become the most robust, innovative economy in the Baltics, he also reinvested Estonia – reinvented Estonia – as a global leader in digital technology, internet access, and the use of online governance to promote openness and accountability – literally a world leader in this field.  Freedom House ranked Estonia first in internet freedom for three years in a row.  And he was one of the first to understand the importance of cybersecurity as a bedrock for the defense of critical infrastructure.  Today politicians across the globe look to Estonia to replicate its successes.

President Ilves shared this expertise through appointments in several high positions in the field of ICT in the European Union, including as chairman of the EU Task Force on eHealth from 2011 to 2011 to 2012, and chairman of the European Cloud Partnership Steering Board at the invitation of the European Commission from 2012 to 2014.  In 2013, he chaired the high-level panel on global internet cooperation and governance mechanisms convened by ICANN.  And from 2014 to 2015, he co-chaired the advisory panel of the World Bank’s 2016 World Development Report on digital dividends.  Where did you find all the time to be president of Estonia?  (Laughter.)  He also chaired the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Cyber Security, beginning in June 2014.

In other words, there is probably no voice in the world more important on the issues of democracy and digitalization than president Ilves.  In recognition of his leadership, President Ilves has been awarded the Bertelsmann Foundation’s Reinhard Mohn Prize for his work promoting digitalization of Estonia.  Both in and out of office, he has served as a crucial voice on transatlantic security cooperation.  He’s also been a vocal leader on strategies to successfully integrate refugees – and I know he’ll talk about that some as well – across Europe, once noting that his parents, who found refugee from Soviet-controlled Estonian in Sweden, were also boat people.  Since leaving office, President Ilves has been no less busy and currently serves as a visiting fellow at Stanford University.  And we will find further ways to exploit him as well.  (Laughter.) 

Before I ask President Ilves to come to the podium, I would also like to thank, again, the many of you in the audience who’ve made this lecture possible.  And then following President Ilves’ remarks, we’ll be joined by Susan Glasser, the editor – well, who was the editor of Politico in 2016.  She’s now Politico’s chief foreign affairs columnist, who has just launched a podcast:  The Global Politico.  Now, her life story echoes our past history in the sense that she and her husband, Peter Baker, were together in Moscow in the first four years of Vladimir Putin as co-chiefs of The Washington Post bureau there – a very uneventful period of time.  And a lot of people would say the two of them are actually responsible for what followed.  (Laughter.)  But everyone’s blaming the media these days, so why not?  (Laughter.)

She was supposed to be in Jerusalem right now, but then history has shifted fortunes yet again, where luckily for us The New York Times decided that its Washington bureau chief of – or, its Washington correspondent of 18 years, Peter Baker – yeah, White House correspondent of 18 years, even though they thought that’s probably long enough to cover the White House, he’d never covered this White House.  And so he’s back.  And luckily Susan is as well, with – as foreign affairs columnist and Global Politico, and back at the Atlantic Council again, where we’re really always happy to have you here.

After the discussion, please stick around for the reception outside in the lobby.  It’s always really a wonderful moment with the Makins Lecture.  And with that, please join me in a warm welcome from President Ilves.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES:  You forgot to mention you gave me an award in 2014.  You did.  Remember Warsaw.

MR. KEMPE:  Ah.  Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Thank you so much.  I forgot the most important self-promotional moment for the Atlantic Council, which was that the Bertelsmann Award was nice, but he also received the Atlantic Council’s Freedom Award in 2014.  (Laughter, applause.)

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Well, thank you very much, Fred.  I do – I mean, I’m an award propagandist, and I figure you left that one just – just left that there, unused.  (Laughter.)

But anyway, Mrs. Makins, and as I look across the hall, I see so many old friends that I have known through the various years – especially I see here Walt Slocombe and Sasha Vershbow, with whom we worked on Russian troop withdrawals a quarter of a century ago.  So it was a long time ago.  And I see Ariel Cohen is here, taking pictures as always.  So anyways, it is great to be here.

So, Mrs. Makins, dear friends, I speak here today at a time when many of the truths of the past quarter century – indeed, at the times the past three-quarters of a century, and sometimes even the past three centuries – have come under question here in the West, in the lands of the free and the home of democracy.  Part of this is our own doing, or not-doing.  Part is from what Karl Popper called the enemies of open society.

I am the child of refugees.  Refugees from totalitarianism.  I came here when I was three and then I had no idea why I was here – where I didn’t know the language at first, where my parents spoke with an accent that I sometimes felt ashamed by.  But why I was here became clear some years later.  I’m old enough to remember this moment, when watching John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech and noticing my parents crying.  It still moves me.  This was what America was about.  This is why my parents came here, and why so many people have come here.  America was the only genuine hope for freedom for the world.  Others all depended on the United States, and took appropriate steps toward Democracy because the United States led.

And though I was far too young at that time to know John Winthrop’s description of America as a shining city on a hill, the understanding that it indeed was became clear already then.  And it’s been so for 70 years.  Not just the free world, but for so many living in autocracies and under totalitarian systems, America was that.  Just think of the students in Tiananmen Square in 1989 with the Statute of Liberty. 

I grew up believing in the fundamental truth that those countries of Europe, the eastern half where the freedom of the individual was subjugated by undemocratic authoritarian and totalitarian regimes would, if only given a chance, choose the same liberal democracy that I had the luck to enjoy, and would prosper as well, just like the West.  Certainly, the experiences of the Czechs and the Poles, the Estonians and Hungarians who made their societies open and free confirmed this belief.

In the countries that managed to preserve liberty after World War II – be it Sweden or Italy, German or – Western German or the United States, Canada or Australia – citizens enjoyed the fundamental freedoms – freedom of speech, of religion and association, or in the formulation of the Helsinki Final Act, freedom of expression includes the right to hold opinions and to express them, and the right to the free flow of information and ideas across borders through any media.  They enjoyed the right to make a profit and, if they chose, to move elsewhere.

These freedoms harken back to John Locke, Thomases Jefferson and Paine, to John Stuart Mill, and have at their core the foundations of the enormous progress of the past 300 years – progress that countries without freedom could achieve only by copying or, at times, even stealing from the free the technologies that allowed them sluggishly and clumsily to develop.  Unfree societies do not innovate, except in finding new ways to break this human spirit, or perhaps to make new weapons.  These freedoms, however, require foundations that support the fundamental core of liberal democracy – free and fair elections, an independent judiciary – meaning, independent of executive or legislative manipulations – due process, all that is meant by the expression rule of law or Rechtsstaat, in the nations more influenced by German tradition.

But, ladies and gentlemen, fortunately a little more than a quarter century ago my childhood beliefs and most fervent hopes were realized.  Totalitarian Communism collapsed, and the countries previously enslaved, oppressed by a lawless secret police, found freedom, and they made themselves free – or at least many of them did.  Yet not all.  Yugoslavia collapsed.  And while some constituent parts opted for democracies, others went for nationalist revanchism.  In too many parts of what was the Soviet Union, democracy was weak and new ways to restrict freedom emerged, and a nascent democracy – or nascent democracies in so many countries were dismantled. 

Several years ago I looked at the Freedom House index of freedom – index of freedom ratings among the countries that RFE-RL, my employer up to a quarter century ago – Fred didn’t mention that but I’m a troglodyte cold warrior.  I worked at RFE for a decade.  Of those countries that broadcast – it became clear that 25 years after the fall of the wall 80 percent of the populations of the – of the erstwhile RFE-RL broadcast area lived in countries deemed either partially free or completely unfree – 80 percent.  Now, what does that say about the end of history?  I’m not sure.

Yet, today I’m dismayed to worry about the West – the West more broadly.  Christopher Walker, vice president for studies and analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy, I think has sort of nailed it by talking about Vladimir Putin’s rollback of the Enlightenment, the fundamentals of the West.  Not only the fundamental freedoms, but also of democracy, rule of law, and separation of church and state.  It is an agenda that is fed by lies and disinformation, by outright bribes and sub rosa money to far-right and far-left fringe groups that once were truly fringe but now increasingly encroach upon the mainstream.

Sometimes, as we have unfortunately seen, we even see mainstream politicians of large countries succumb to this.  We see this today in Europe, actually, we’ve seen it for a while, and in the U.S. as well with dog-whistle rhetoric that is racist and prejudiced, and that is recognized by those for whom freedom and democracy mean nothing.  We have seen this use of money, when a former Bundeskanzler calls a despot a perfect democrat, while working for the perfect democrat’s state-owned gas company.  Hi, Anders Aslund.  (Laughs.)  He’s the real expert on this.

And then there are the attempts directly to meddle in elections, as we see in the hacking and doxing – a term maybe some of you don’t know but that’s publishing documents that are hacked and publishing embarrassing private information, the dissemination of emails of only one of the candidates in the U.S. election, all with the seeming connivance of the Russian government.  We see not only the Enlightenment values of liberal democracy under attack, but we one of the greatest scientific creations of our time – the internet – turned against liberal democracy in ways we could never have imagined when 30 years ago I worked for Radio Free Europe.

We thought only a few years ago, in fact, that the internet, social media, would liberate the autocracies of the Middle East, if you recall the use of Twitter during the Arab Spring.  Instead, what we see is that our own societies are under threat from fake news, by anti-democratic, often racist rhetoric that drowns out the voices of reason and tolerance.  We see that the internet has been turned into something you can steal from, that you can violate the privacy of people in ways that never, ever could be imagined before. 

And I might add – I mean, it’s unfortunate.  Sometimes you hear people saying, well, it’s good to know what people have in their emails, that this helps democracy to know what’s going on.  But then if you say, well, that’s in digital form.  If you actually broke into someone’s house and took their private correspondence, you would go to jail.  And no one would say it’s good that we know what they did because we broke into their office and took their letters.

Which brings us to where we are right now.  And frankly, this is where I get very nervous.  This year, elections will be held in Europe – the other bastion on the other side of this wonderful bridge from the United States to Europe.  And these elections will be in key countries.  Next month in the Netherlands.  In France where there are two elections, presidential and parliamentary.  In Germany, the scheduled election, as with the Czech Republic.  And there is also a very, very high probability of snap elections in Italy – at least, I keep hearing that, that they’re coming.

And in every one of these countries, we already see operating the same mechanisms we saw in the United States.  Russian hacking, fake news riling up an anti-immigrant sentiment, with anti-EU and anti-NATO candidates benefitting.  German intelligence, both domestic and foreign, has been uncharacteristic blunt in saying this outright.  In fact, those of you who know Deutschland know that the Verfassungsshutz and the Bundesnachrichtendienst respectively – the FBI and the CIA of Germany – has never been very vocal.  But they are wary enough that the statements they have made in the past two months actually are far stronger than anything the otherwise hawkish Americans have said.  Certainly, both are more blunt about Russian meddling than either the FBI or the CIA has been.

 And just yesterday, the French media reported France’s Director-General for External Security – so the equivalent of CIA – believes a disinformation campaign coordinated by the Kremlin threatens to undermine the April elections.  They, meaning the DGSE, fear that Russia will seek to help the anti-EU, anti-NATO national front using bots, which are robots – I mean, like, digital robots – to passively post pro-Le Pen messages online.  And they also fear that other candidates will suffer the same hacked email publication that cost Hillary Clinton so many votes.  And we’ve already seen Mr. Assange promising to publish damaging things on Mr. Macron. 

So this puts transatlantic security in a whole different light.  We need not worry about NATO’s military capabilities, if the – so the famous expression, continuation of policy by other means, which was Clausewitz’s definition of war – you don’t have to worry about the military side of things, because without the rule of law where you can control the internet and virtually the media you do not have to worry that someone might affect the election by doxing you, by planting fake news that is unfavorable to the ruling regime.  But they can do it to us. 

In this regard, all democracies, not just the transatlantic ones that are joined together through NATO or through the European Union, are basically under threat.  We already see the threat in Europe.  But when I was yesterday in Japan, they are just as worried.  They don’t have elections now.  They don’t have an extremist party with any following.  But they understand how fragile democracy is and they too have the same neighbor.  And so you have countries where the internet is not a threat, because they control it.  And then you have countries where you have freedom of speech, and they control what you get.

So these are – I mean, all democracies, as I said, are under threat.  And authoritarian regimes, using the methods that we have seen and are seeing today in Europe, can do the same thing to any democracy – be it Australia or Japan, South Africa or Mexico.  In other words, the disruptive power of digital technology that has had in my country, for example, such a great effect in making things work better, and has done so much for economic development – the whole big, fat book that Fred mentioned that I co-chaired, leading the World Bank, digital development, you can download it for free. 

I’ll do a little commercial here.  But if you go to and you can download it.  You get about 400 pages of how digitalization helps countries develop.  That it also can have a hugely negative effect when this digital technology is applied to politics, at least in democracies where public – in those countries where public opinion matters.  Because if you don’t have really genuinely free and fair elections, you don’t have to worry.  But if you have free and fair elections and someone’s manipulating the information, they you better start worrying. 

It is also in light of this that I think we need to think beyond the geographical bounds of security.  I mean, we have the Atlantic Council here.  Yes, it’s – because, I mean, NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  It’s where the threats were in ’49, and that’s where the threats have been.  And they are geographic threats.  But today, unconstrained by the limits of kinetic war, by the range of missiles and bombers, by the logistics needed to support an armored division, we can succumb to digital warfare. 

And as I have purposely left out cyberwarfare, as it has been discussed in the last decade, as wiping out communications or power grid infrastructure, even that is costly because you don’t have to hack the power grid, let alone attack with a division of tanks, if you can hack the elections and change the policies of a country, which leads me to suggest that we need a new form of defense organization in this cyber area, or this digital era that we live in, where distance no longer matters.

It would be a non-geographic, but very strict criteria-based organization to defend democracies.  And those have to be, of course, genuine democracies.  I mean, in different contexts Madeleine Albright and John McCain have proposed a league of democracies or a community of democracies.  And I think it’s a good idea, but sort of looking at the memberships, they kind of – the criteria were a little loose.  But I mean serious ones, I mean, the same kind of criteria you need to join NATO – which is you have to be a liberal democracy, civilian control of the media – of the – (laughs) – of the military. 

I actually proposed this myself four years ago at an Atlantic Council – there’s another commercial here – dinner at the Munich Security Conference.  But then, we hadn’t seen things go as far as they are.  But the main point is that in this new digital age, this forces us to renew our commitment to democracy, or liberal democracy, a term that I use here, even though I know that the word liberal offends some people because of its American meaning, or U.S. meaning, which is left or right – or, I mean, which is left.  And so maybe you need a new word here.  But saying free and fair elections, rule of law, fundamental rights and freedoms, including free speech and unfettered press, even when you say it fast, doesn’t really do the same trick as saying “liberal democracy”.  (Laughter.)

So, ladies and gentlemen, I know you’re getting tired of me so I won’t talk too much longer.  But let me say that 55 years ago, in 1961 – and I note that when he said this, this person, as a member of the Democratic Party in the United States, as a labor union activist and not yet a politician, and so a liberal in the American sense, Ronald Reagan said, and I quote, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.  We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream.  It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”  Now, for 25 years, we thought it was kind of in the bloodstream, because we thought we’d won.  We worried that things didn’t go as well as we thought it would with the end of history, but it went pretty well.

But now we all – all democracies – are under attack of threatened by potential attack.  A general has passed since the giants who led us to freedom – the Walesas, the Havels – and we often forget what has been given to us.  Our countries have come to take their freedoms for granted.  People under thirty do not even know what lack of freedom means, what the inhuman, inhumane automatic machine guns at the Berlin Wall meant, what foreign tanks and troops in the street meant.

We might also remind ourselves again that we will keep our freedom only if we are willing to defend it.  We, not the U.S. only nor NATO’s Article Five, but we ourselves are the ones who must defend our own liberty.  So this is our job.  It is easier to do it than under martial law or during Soviet occupation – far, far, far easier, because things are different today.  Today – but then again, today the truth matters less.  Desinformatsiya, be it about Brexit, Mexicans in America or the Lisa case in Germany – which if you don’t know about I can talk about later – in the liberal democratic West today people can utter complete falsehoods and it matters not one whit.  Belief is what matters, not truth matters.

Now, certainly this is not as invidious as the Berlin Wall or the Gulag.  But if we do not try even to do the easy things; if we take for granted what others against all odds did before us; if we shirk our responsibility to defend the treasure of liberty that was passed on to us, then we may lose that freedom that is our duty to pass on to the next generation to follow. 

And in closing, I’d say this is why America matters.  I won’t go into it at length, but if you actually look at where – why we have a free Europe, meaning a Europe that is at peace and is whole – it’s because of U.S. leadership.  Without U.S. leadership, the rest of the world need not follow, nor be capable of doing things.  I think Mrs. Merkel is great, but to say that she is now the leader of the free world is putting a really unfair burden on a country that is far smaller.  And she has enough problems with her own – her own – her own Europe.

But I do hope that those of us who are willing to stand for democracy will do so, because we quietly say, paraphrasing John F. Kennedy:  Wir sind Amerikaner.  We are Americans.  (Applause.)

SUSAN GLASSER:  Thank you, President Ilves.  I think, on behalf of all of us, that was just a fantastic and powerful lecture.

And for those of you – including, possibly, President Ilves – who have been so good as to not check your Twitter feeds during this conversation, I actually have a breaking news update that is very relevant to your lecture.  You started off talking about yourself as a child of immigrants.  Well, while we were here the three-judge federal appeals panel, the 9th Circuit, on Thursday unanimously refused to reinstate President Trump’s targeted travel ban, delivering the latest – (applause, cheers).  This was a unanimous decision.  I looked at some of the wording.  It was very strongly worded.  Donald Trump has already tweeted his response.  It’s an all-cap Twitter response that says, “SEE YOU IN COURT.”  So our constitutional drama continues here in the United States.

When that order was issued, you took to Twitter.  And I should say, for those of you who don’t follow President Ilves on Twitter, you should do so.  For several years now, I think he’s been perhaps my most reliable guide to what’s happening in a perch looking over Russia that is perhaps closer than anybody else’s.  I agree with Fred, I never understood how you could do so much tweeting and also be the president – (laughter) – but he really was the best tweeter while also being the best president.  So what do you think about –

PRESIDENT ILVES:  It’s to avoid writing speeches and articles.  (Laughter.)

MS. GLASSER:  You know, it’s fantastic.  I’ve discovered that lots of people now are a lot more active on Twitter.  But, you know, you were there before Donald Trump, I think.  (Laughter.)  What was the response when you tweeted when he issued his executive order on refugees?  You tweeted about it.  You’ve spoken very publicly and movingly about your own past as a refugee here.  How much have the Trump trolls and the Russian trolls come after you for that?

 PRESIDENT ILVES:  Well, they’ve been – it’s kind of fairly steady, although in the last two days it’s kind of – there’s been an upturn.  I don’t know why.  I didn’t do anything.  But, you know, I guess it comes in waves.  You know, I try not to be too offensive.  Doesn’t always work, but.  (Laughs.)

MS. GLASSER:  Well, you know, I have to say – I suppose I’m allowed to say this at the Atlantic Council and not get in trouble – but, you know, President Ilves is very – calling us to arms, in one way, about the perils for democracy at this particular moment, but in a way modest about what you’ve managed to accomplish both in Estonia, such a small country, and also your general role as a public intellectual and agitator. 

I believe it was another news organization that called you a bowtie-wearing badass of the Twitter era.  (Laughter.)  I think that’s an excellent description.  And I want to ask you what you meant for us to take from your description of all democracies as being under threat at this particular moment in time, and not rooted in a particular geographic location.  That’s both a harrowing statement for us to hear, and also I guess the question is what are we supposed to do about it?

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Well, that’s another lecture.  Well, first of all, I think the main point is that – I mean, if we see what the main point is that – I mean, if you see what the intelligence community calls APT 28 and APT 29, which are advanced persistent threats, which are basically hacking groups that are known.  And they also call themselves Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, but they’re basically – you know, I think they’re probably just – you know, one’s GRU and maybe something – military intelligence in Russia and the other one is maybe someone else.  Or maybe they have a Team A and Team B and they’re competing.  I don’t know.

But in any case, they have been active and identified in many countries, precisely going after democratic institutions.  So, I mean, everyone knows about – everyone knows about hacking the DNC servers.  But they also hacked the entire Bundestag, the German parliament, and it seems that in a number of other places as well.  But, I mean, the Germans said outright that these groups have hacked into the parliament of Germany.

Now, you don’t have – this is what I said, that you don’t need to worry about missiles.  If you can – if you can turn around the government, and the government becomes pro-Russia.  I mean, you can change sanctions, right?  I mean, we know that – we know that Mrs. Le Pen has said that she would take France out of NATO and out of the European Union.  Why do you have to sort of – I mean, if the European Union falls apart, then its main strength at least in foreign policy, which is being unitary, disappears.

And since the – since the late ’90s, the Russian position is that they would rather deal bilaterally with countries than dealing with the European Union because, I mean, if you – they’re bigger than every single country in the European Union.  There is no – nothing even comes close in size, let alone – military might in the European Union actually is huge, but – well, they don’t do much with it.  But nonetheless, if you’re dealing with individual countries on a bilateral basis, then you’re in a much strong position to bully anyone – not only little countries, but even big countries.

I was slightly dismayed to see an interview with the man who was – who is apparently being appointed to be the European – the ambassador to the European Union saying that the U.S. prefers to deal with countries on a bilateral basis and not with the European Union.  I mean, that’s more or less what the Russian position is.  And, well, I mean – I mean, all of that weakens individual member states and their democracies.

So the main point is that you can, in fact, do a lot of damage to countries.  And if you want to change their foreign policy through sort of softer means than the ones that – than sort of the hard mechanisms that have been used in the past, then why not do it?  It’s not very expensive.

MS. GLASSER:  Well, so clearly there’s been an effectiveness on the part of Russia.  But turning towards what can be done and, you know, the response not only of NATO member states, what is your view, right now, first of all, of how potentially effective it is, the measures that have already been taken by NATO to increase troop deployments?  They just arrived, I believe it was just this week in Estonia, a new set of U.S. troops on rotation in the Baltic states.  Estonia just –

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Poland.  Poland.  The U.S. is in Poland.  But I’ll take –


PRESIDENT ILVES:  I mean, this is, again, one of these kind of disinformation things.  I mean, we have – there is a battalion – one battalion, 600 soldiers – in each of the Baltic countries.  We are facing basically 300,000 people on the other side.  So, I mean, all of this kind of, like, oh the Americans –

MS. GLASSER:  No, it’s very symbolic.

PRESIDENT ILVES:  It’s strictly symbolic.  But then again – you know, and then you get the other thing that you hear as well, you know, what can they do?  Well, I mean, the U.S. – the U.S. has troops throughout the Cold War in Berlin.  And so, I mean, it worked, because the fundamental thing about NATO, and which is why it’s so disliked, is that if you attack – I mean, say you attack Estonia, which is – what happens if they have?  Well, in fact, then all of Russia becomes a target, and you have all of NATO – representing 900 million citizens – going to war with the aggressor.  I mean, that’s what Article 5 is about.  And people forget that it’s not that you’re going – you’re just going to be worried about, you know, what troops will be arriving when in beleaguered Estonia.  You will have to worry about Murmansk and you will have to worry about Vladivostok, and so on.

MS. GLASSER:  But let me stop.  Do you believe that Donald Trump would honor America’s Article 5 commitment to Estonia today?

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Well, the only criteria we know – single criterion is doing your share.  And Estonia is one of the four countries in Europe that actually does do its 2 percent – or we actually have increased it over 2 percent.  Others are quickly raising their contributions.  But we have been there for a while.  And so, I mean, if you stick to the – strictly what was said, then it’s – we are among those that do our share.  And we also were in Iraq, which is not NATO, but we had high casualties there per capita, as always with a small country.  And in Afghanistan we took some of the largest number of casualties, again, per capita.  But for a small country, you know, having that many troops killed in action and wounded, and lots of wounded people who are – who are maimed and so forth.  That we have done our share and we do do our share.

So, at the same time, I’ll say that there are many countries in NATO that really need to up their contribution to defense.  We have long ago squandered in Europe the peace dividend.  I mean, it’s – the decision was taken to dramatically decrease defense expenditures and reduce numbers of troops, thinking that, you know, the halcyon days had come and now we had peace and love and Woodstock between the West and the East.  But it turned out that it’s not that way.  And what we – and especially now. 

You’d think that after you saw the first actual annexation of territory since probably the Anschluss or more technically perhaps Sudetenland in 1938, that people would kind of wake up and say:  Maybe we should worry a little more about – worry about our defense expenditures, especially because we see clearly that the fundamental agreements that have guaranteed security – beginning with the U.N. charter and the then Helsinki Final Act and CSCE, repeated in the Paris Charter, that says everyone has a choice – every country has the choice of which alliances it makes, and also that the use of force to change borders is forbidden.  I mean, that’s in all of those documents.

This has been violated.  Now, that means you can’t really count on it.  You cannot count on sort of a constantly reiterated, fundamental position that nations have acceded to rule ratification, thereby becoming law.  And it was violated.  Not to mention the Budapest Memorandum, which in fact – I mean, you –

MS. GLASSER:  Signed by Russia, and agreeing to the borders that they then –

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Right.  And that they would maintain the territorial integrity of Ukraine in return for getting rid of the second-largest arsenal in the world.  So, I mean –

MS. GLASSER:  But, so you sound a little bit like Donald Trump, right?  Donald Trump, as well as Barack Obama, have criticized the lack of full participation by a number of NATO countries in meeting their 2 percent defense –

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Well, actually, I sound like Bob Gates, because he gave this – (laughter) –

MS. GLASSER:  Right, he came and gave that speech too.

PRESIDENT ILVES:  That speech was then 2011.  And that was, at least, a wake-up call for me to start sort of really kicking everyone in my country that, look, this is – I mean, it was clear, after he – when he said that the U.S. public and its parliament would not stomach this for long – so that was like six years ago he said that.  I said, look, this is going to come.  This will be an issue, whether we – no matter who’s president, this will become an issue.  And it clearly has.  But I mean, throughout the – I mean, as you mentioned – I mean, the Obama administration was constantly pestering and pressuring countries to up their defense commitments.

MS. GLASSER:  So what is different, then, about Trump?  I keep coming back, that I know we don’t know fully yet exactly what he intends to do.  He’s spoken on the campaign trail and since his victory – he’s talked in fairly stark terms about his desire to reset relations with Russia, and continues, to the perplexity of many Republicans even here, talk admiringly of Vladimir Putin.  So I’m sure you get this question all the time.  I’m sure everybody else in this room gets this question all the time.  But we’re going to ask you anyways.  What is up with the – you know, the Trump-Putin mutual admiration society?  And how does it affect countries like Estonia?

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Well, I’ll probably answer the way everyone answers:  I don’t know.  (Laughter.)  I mean, no one really does know.  And so what the sources for it are, why, what are the – I mean, it’s – it runs counter to the thinking of most people I know, regardless of whether they’re Democrats or Republicans.  So we don’t understand and we don’t know why, and we don’t always understand – we don’t understand why sort of things like Crimea, the Georgian War, I mean, why these things which are such clear signals that we can’t really count on peace necessarily without sort of being prepared for war – para bellum – si vis pacem, bara bellum, which is Vegetius, right, from about 74 AD.  Damon knows all this.  But anyway, so you better be – you better be prepared.  You have to – I mean, you have to have a strong military.  And you can’t sort of just think that, oh, it’ll be all fine. 

And I guess many people in Europe are worried about what potential deal you would make, and what is that you would get for lifting sanctions, which are in response to clear violations of international law and something that has actually been very difficult to maintain the unity in the European Union.  I mean, it’s – OK, on the face of it, I mean, we’re always declaring unity, but that requires a huge amount of work, to get all the ducks in a row, as it were.  And if – so has the United States basically sort of coordinated, or at least more or less in the same line.  And if the U.S. falls off, you can imagine – I don’t need to start naming all the countries in this room – I mean, in this room I don’t need to start reeling off all the countries who will say, oh, look, the Americans did it.  You know, American leadership, we’ll follow.  At which point you have legitimized and okayed the occupation of Crimea and everything that has happened in the Donbas and the shooting down of MH17.

MS. GLASSER:  Given – clearly everybody understands the continued importance of following through on policy, like sanctions, that has been agreed upon.  But do you believe that sanctions have been effective?  I mean, there’s no real suggestion that Putin is chastened by them.

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Well, they seem to have been rather effective.  I mean, the other thing I should note her is that the four countries – or the five countries that have been effected most by the sanctions – that is to say not Russia, but sort of effected in terms of their economies – they’re Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.  These five countries have gotten it – have been hit sort of in terms of lost business the most.  And four of those have been the most vocal supporters of continued sanctions.  And the fifth, Finland, I mean, has not made a big deal of maintaining them, but they have never said that they’re opposed.

MS. GLASSER:  That’s an important point.  So I want to bring in the audience in just a minute for questions.  But I want to turn quickly back to the other sort of theme of your lecture, which is not just Russia but this broader question of what’s next for countries and democracies that face the threat caused by their own openness, in a way, to the internet – the fact that we are clearly are all now aware that we’re entering an uncharted new era, that’s not just about the security of our companies or of our credit card information, but that it has actually now come to something deeper, which is the security of our very democratic rights. 

For most Americans who have been sitting here in the last few weeks, right, this has been a sort of shocking set of conversations, whatever your political views are, about some of the very basic principles of our Democracy.  So what do you see that lies ahead that we might not have really fully thought through in terms of how this threat to our collective democracies, not just here in the U.S., could play out, right?  So we now get that elections are vulnerable.  We now get that our politicians are targeted in a new way.  What haven’t we seen yet that you fear we might?

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Well, I would say that – I mean, we have to deal with internet security or with digital security in ways that will require us to behave very differently.  And I – concretely what I mean is that we’re all used to a model of email and internet communication that worked really well 35 years ago on something called BINET, which was kind of 3,500 academics writing emails to each other.  I mean, before – military was already using ARPANET.  But this is when it was sort of rolled out to the public.  This is before actually you had webpages.  This was just mail.

But the model that came out of that was – you send email.  So you have your name, and then the at, and then the domain.  So Atlantic Council.  And then the top domain, which is org, so dot-org.  And then – so if I write a mail to Damon – and there I did it.  And in order – and the other part of the security is a password.  Well, that model, which worked for 3,500 academics writing to each other basically in democracies, and who were not out to steal anything except maybe sort of plagiarize some – no, I mean, they weren’t doing anything.  (Laughter.)

MS. GLASSER:  Those crazy academics.

PRESIDENT ILVES:  But now we have 3.5 billion people.  And we’re using a system that is completely insecure.  And really the only remedy for that is a secure identification.  And this is where the problem will come.  I mean, the country – basically, the Five Eyes countries – those are the ones who share secrets among themselves – the English-speaking peoples, to use Churchill’s term.  But basically the U.K., Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia are the countries that will not have an identity – will not have an identity of any – I mean, a strict identity that is verifiable.  And unless you do that, you’re not – you’re going to continue to have the problems that we do. 

Not that you’ll solve them all, but at least you need – you need to know who is there.  Who is coming to you.  You need – they need to know who you are.  And so that will require – I mean, that is something that will require some kind of identification system, and minimally two-factor authentication.  Basically, you need to have two different things that say you are you, and then it comes together to some kind of central depot that says this thing, you know, in Estonia to your chip card and this code match up.  Therefore, you are you.  Now, that’s – I mean, that’s a big change.  And that’s something that, I mean, not everyone is willing to do.  And usually the objections that we hear we get from those Five Eyes countries.  Other countries have – maybe because they’re more scared – are willing to do this.

MS. GLASSER:  And the objections – just to be clear – are in the nature of the fact that this is too Big Brotherish.  That this effectively requires so much –

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Well, we don’t think it does, because we have this system and it’s – we have no backdoors.  I mean, ultimately the system is based on trust.  And all of the services, all the benefits we get from this, it would collapse as soon as it turned out that this was being abused.  And I mean, there are ways of abusing it, and we have dealt very harshly with – I mean, we’ve had one case in which a policewoman who was a systems administrator abused it to check up on her boyfriend.  (Laughter.)  But the thing is, as soon as someone abuses it, it gets flagged.  That’s the kind of thing that you have to build into the system.  And even there, I mean, you can think, OK, they can go around it.  I mean, our fear, and why we’re completely against any backdoors is that the system is based on trust.

MS. GLASSER:  Well, and what if there was a strongman who came to power in Estonia?

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Well – (laughs) – that’s really low down on the totem pole in my country. 

MS. GLASSER:  (Laughs.)  Well, let’s get to the audience questions.  I know everyone has a lot of questions.  So please do me a favor and state your name and make it a question, if you can?  So, ma’am, you can go ahead and go first.  We have a microphone as well, so.

Q:  Thank you.  I’m Paula Stern.  Member of the Atlantic Council.

And I’m wondering if you can give us your personal insight or point of view as to why Donald Trump finds Putin so attractive.  What is – (laughs) – now, everyone, of course, is asking, you know, well they – does the – Putin have something on Donald Trump?  And I’m – we’ve had a lot of speculation in the course of the last hour and a half about the impact of the emails and the hacking and the leaking on WikiLeaks.  But I would love to hear your kind of personal view as to what is it between these two guys?

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Yeah, I really don’t understand it.  And I – I mean, the – I have no evidence of anything.  I mean, so I can’t – I mean, it would be – it would be speculating, and there’s too much of that already anyway.  I mean, you can just leave it as saying that basically someone who has never had any experience with governance, and really has not, doesn’t quite understand the threats, and especially in the security realm. 

And this actually a fairly traditional – I mean, we’ve seen this over, I guess, the course of the Cold War, which is – I mean, if you became – when you became a member of the Senate or House Intelligence Committee, and then you got – you got a Top Secret clearance, and then you saw pacifist sort of – you know, sort of Ostpolitik people would suddenly become quite hawkish.  And I remember there’s a quote from Barack Obama, who was in – when he actually got his first briefing, he wanted to jump out the window.  (Laughter.)  So – I mean, very first briefing as president.  He got, he says, like oh my God.  And so, I mean – that why I was – I was concerned when he kind of dismissed the intelligence community, because if there’s any community that knows their stuff on this it’s the U.S. intelligence community.

MS. GLASSER:  Oh, my.  So much to unpack here.  Sir.

Q:  I’m Mike Nelson.  I work for CloudFlare, a web security firm.  But in the ’90s I worked for our former geek-in-chief Vice President Gore, and did a lot on e-government.  So I’ve been fascinated with what you’ve done on e-government over the last several years.

And the most fascinating and innovative things you’ve done, to my mind, is your back-up nation.  You’ve backed up all the files, all the information for citizens, property records, everything, and stored it outside the country in the cloud.  And you’ve also created digital citizenship for non-Estonians.

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Residency, but yeah.

Q:  That’s the better term, yeah.  Why did you do this?  Are you trying to create sort of an exceptional network that’s even better than an exceptional nation?  Or is there something – some other reason for doing these two things?

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Well, the first one is fairly – is kind of a no-brainer if you’re a small country in a not-so-good neighborhood.  (Laughter.)  See, in the United States you don’t have to – you don’t have to really worry about – I mean, you have backup systems, you know, in different places, you’re so big.  But if – but the idea really got pushed, especially after Fukushima – I mean, the tsunami and Fukushima meltdown – partial meltdown.  Japan lost some of its data.  And so I would say, if you’re a small country or in a seismically-active area, it’s probably a good idea to try to store things elsewhere. 

Now, where the innovation part comes in, which isn’t quite done yet, but we do store things in our embassies.  But ultimately you want to apply the Vienna Convention to servers.  But that’s in process.  I’m not in – I’m not there anymore, so I don’t know how far it’s gotten, but that was what we were pushing.  Now, the e-residency thing was just that – I mean, why not?  (Laughter.)  I mean, we have – I mean, there’s – it’s – I mean, basically the countries that have – the people who want to do it come from countries that want to enjoy EU law.  And they – and so you can have the – basically the EU’s sort of very law-based.  So, if you want to have a company that is based in the European Union, you don’t have to physically live there, but you can establish the country in the European Union by doing this.

But the thing that you do with the – with the residency, is that you are completely identified.  I mean, you have your fingerprints, all of your – I mean, all – you do all this, whatever is it, various or due diligence terms, by know your customer or something like – or whatever it is.  So, I mean, you actually – I mean, sometimes in the U.S. they go, well, aren’t terrorists going to use us?  Well – we go, well, if you’re going to – I don’t know what terrorists are going to start giving 10 fingerprints and have people sort of research their background before they get this.  But so far it – I mean, I think they rather that people don’t want to do that.

But there are – I mean, the kind of thing – my main point, actually, with all the stuff that people are saying.  Oh, Estonia’s so advanced technologically.  I would say Estonia’s not at all any more advanced than anyone else in technology.  It is that basically – I mean, the technology is ubiquitous, meaning it’s in the air and everywhere.  The difference between Estonia and a country that doesn’t do things comes down to policy, regulation, and laws, because if you don’t have the policies you won’t get the regulation, but you won’t get the regulation until you have the legal basis for it.  And we have been – come up with – come up with a lot of laws and regulations, and also some pretty clever policies that other countries, to varying degrees, have wanted to follow, and other ones have not been.  The biggest stumbling block is a secure identity.

And countries – I mean, in our neighborhood – Finland, Latvia, Lithuania – actually do offer secure identities, as Estonia does.  But the other stuff hasn’t taken off because of what was initially an unpopular decision, was to make this identity mandatory and universal, which of course that was sort of the courageous step in 2001, when we did the legal signature law and made this requirement.  I don’t want to get too far into it, but what happens then in terms of – you have that policy and that law.  Then the private sector and the public sector will see that, oh, OK, let’s now build services.  But in the countries where, like, you know, kind of the range is 15 to 25 percent of the population has adopted the identity system – whichever it is – but then it you’re a bank or if you’re a ministry, why bother?  I mean, you know, most of the people aren’t going to use it because they don’t have the stuff.

And so – and then you get stuff, which like for my country we have digital prescriptions, which means that no one ever gets a paper prescription.  I mean, you can if you want, but no one ever does.  I remember in regard to this, there are 5,000 deaths in the United States each year due to bad handwriting.

MS. GLASSER:  I was going to say you solved the handwriting problem.  (Laughs.)

PRESIDENT ILVES:  But the way it works is that your doctor just puts the prescription into the computer and you can go to any pharmacy in Estonia and get your prescription.  Now, the first time around you have to go to the doctor.  But if – you know, like me, I have high blood pressure.  So I, doc, I need more blood – or I write him an email.  So he says, oh, OK.  And then he puts it in the computer so I can just go to my pharmacy and get it because it’s in the system.

MS. GLASSER:  That’s real revolution in Estonia.  He can email his doctor and he gets a response.  (Laughter.)

OK, Sandy.

Q:  Sandy Vershbow, Atlantic Council.

Question about countering disinformation.  You emphasized this in your remarks.  Do you think this is something that should be taken on in a much bigger way by the EU, by NATO?  Or is this something that each nation has to figure out on its own in terms of countering the fake news and the efforts to undermine legitimate democratic institutions?  Because right now the EU’s got a nice little unit, five or six people, puts out a newsletter every week.  It’s very interesting, but it’s not exactly going to change the world.  Is this –

PRESIDENT ILVES:  I think that’s going to change dramatically.  I mean, in many ways you say that little unit in the European Union was done to placate those crazy East Europeans who were complaining about Russian disinformation.  I mean, being open here, I’d say – I mean, I did feel for a very short time a certain degree of schadenfreude because for years – I mean, we in especially the Baltic countries, but eastern – East Europe in general – have been subjected to all kinds of disinformation that – I mean, to others, about us.  And then we would get people coming to us saying, well, look, what are you doing here?  And we’d say, no, that’s not true.  This is fundamentally a lie. 

And it really started getting out of hand with – after the annexation of Crimea, when basically there was – the BCC, Deutsche Welle, they were all flooded with horror stories that were completely fake.  And even there, you saw, well, we have to present both sides of the story when, in fact, you know, there is no sort of middle ground between a lie and the truth.  But now that it is being applied, as we have seen as I mentioned, to Germany, to France.  We saw it during the referendum last year in the Netherlands on something as mild and kind of milquetoasty as the association agreement for Ukraine, which basically all it is a free trade agreement plus student and teacher exchange.  I mean, it doesn’t really give you a lot.  But that was – they got enough signatures to do a referendum on it, and then the propaganda really hit.

So now many countries in Western Europe that previously kind of thought this was one of these sort of – you know, this is the stuff those Eastern Europeans talk about, but actually, you know, it’s not serious.  Now they realize it’s serious.  And when I was talking to some – talking to some people at the Munich Security Conference Advisory Council meeting in December, I guess, from Germany, they’re really worried.  They’re very seriously worried.  And as I said, I mean, if you have the heads of the security or intelligence communities coming out and saying this, then you know they really are worried, because they don’t like to say things like that.

MS. GLASSER:  All right.  Over here.

Q:  If I could follow up on that.  Two things.

PRESIDENT ILVES:  And who is that?

MS. GLASSER:  Sorry, can you identify yourself?

Q:  Sorry.  Fran Burwell of the Atlantic Council.

If I could follow up on that in two ways.  First off, this disinformation – although it may be blatant lies, in some segments of the population it is having – it clearly responds to some feelings that they have and they want to see it as true.  And it’s then very difficult to disabuse such people of these notions, especially as our media fractures and people listen to the things that kind of reaffirm what they want to hear.  But how, as a politician, can you address that?  And what can we do, aside from the EU cell that Sandy mentioned and things like that, to counter such disinformation and lies?  Is it a matter of taking it down one lie at a time, or is there something more systematic that we can do?

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Well, this is all uncharted territory.  And the empirical research is actually only starting now.  I mean, we only found out – we only started looking at this phenomenon recently.  I mean, it was – after the election it became clear that on Facebook more fake stories were shared than real stories.  So it was like 8 million 400(,000) or 500,000 fake stories were – or, whatever – people shared.  And then the true stories, the ones that were backed up by fact, it was, like, 7 million 500. 

So, I mean, that’s – that already shows that, well – I mean, it’s lucrative.  Fake stories, you know, you get clicks.  And maybe this – if your model of the media is click-based, then that’s something which will be kind of the death of democracy.  I mean, the business model of journalism today – as long as it’s click of share based – will lead to the more extravagant stories being shared and the more mundane ones not even read.  And, well, I mean, I can’t predict where that will go.

But it’s also true – another study from June of last year is that in the United States 65 percent of people – the news that people get comes via Facebook, which, again – and then, of course, even that’s quite lucrative, when you saw these people who – I mean, there were stories in The Washington Post and The New York Times about people who basically made up stories.  And they were so wild – I mean, they weren’t even promoting a political view, but they ended up seeing that, OK, a particular audience was retweeting everything.  And they were sort of making, you know, $3,000 a week from making up stories.

And in Montenegro you had – or Macedonia, I forget which one –

MS. GLASSER:  Montenegro.

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Montenegro.  I mean, you had people just making up stories.  And then they found out that the Democrats were – didn’t retweet them or didn’t share them.  So then they switched sides.  (Laughter.)  Not that they had – they were –

MS. GLASSER:  It’s fake news for hire.

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Yeah.  And then you had some – and there were some guys who here were also – I guess, in – I don’t know in which – whether it was the Post or the Times.  But they basically discovered that I can make money like this.  Now, how to respond to that?  I mean, there may be technological things, sort of algorithms that may do it.  Or you may see in some cases legislation.  I think in a – in a country like Germany, where fear of authoritarians getting power is so ingrained that they will do almost anything to avoid – to prevent that being done.  And it has been done extensively. 

And I mentioned the Lisa or Lisa case, which if you don’t know is that a year ago there was a fake story about a German girl, but of Russian descent, who was – who RT said was gangraped by Muslims, which was – turned out to be completely fake.  But it’s also – when the Russians kept insisting on this they sort of scored an own-goal because the trust in Russia plummeted after that.  Now, the other thing that is worrisome is that there was a recent story, right after new year’s, that really shocked Germany, which was that the German Breitbart put out a story that a thousand Muslims burnt down one of Germany’s oldest churches – utterly fake.  No truth to it whatsoever. 

And so – I mean, if you – if this is coming not only from sort of Russia, but it’s also coming from the United States in what is – whatever.  If this affects – if this is seen to affect the outcome of a democratic election, I think the Germans will be – are nervous and scared enough about what might happen, because they do have – they do have a hard-right party there.  And they also have a hard-left party, who seem to be almost on the same page on virtually every issue – from Putin to migration. 

So, I mean, I think Germany – I’m speculating here.  And if anyone’s German, I mean, I’m sorry.  But it’s just that it’s a country that takes these things very, very seriously and may do something even legislatively, because I do know that some of my acquaintances there – actually in the Bundestag – talk about what kind of law would we need in order to punish people who spread fake news.  Now, I mean, they’re all right.  I mean, and then you have – as I said, Facebook claims to now have algorithms.  Well, I don’t know, I mean.

MS. GLASSER:  All right.  I think we’re almost out of time.  So we’re probably only going to be able to take one more question.  You’ve been very patient, ma’am, in the front row here.

Q:  Thank you.  Agnia Grigas, Atlantic Council.

You have seen the tides of history change.  You have also seen, probably better than anyone, how some of the tactics that Russia has used in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states were now –

PRESIDENT ILVES:  This is to say I’m old, yes?  (Laughter.)

Q:  You know, are now in full force in Western Europe and in United States.  So are you personally optimistic about the resilience of Europe and the West, let’s say, and the United States?  Or do you think we have potentially a downturn – another downturn in history coming?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT ILVES:  (Laughs.)  Well, you know, if you read someone far smarter than I, Francis Fukuyama, he thinks that there – I mean, he sees a genuine – I mean, he’s also Hegelian.  But he sees sort of this – I mean, this threat of sort of the institutions losing their strength and not – and it’s a kind of a democracy or – going downhill.  I mean, that’s a possible outcome.  Certainly, it is depressing to see the change that we have seen in democracies and the polarization of political parties, which is not a new thing but is probably going on – has been going on for a long time.  And maybe it was the common threat of communism until 1989-91 that kept at least foreign policy more or less bipartisan or, in the case of European countries, I mean, multiparty. 

I mean, you know, we forget that the Communist Party signed onto NATO in 1949 there.  And we forget, and no one knows or remembers or – I mean, they don’t know the facts, that in fact the sort of the final – the thing that caused NATO to be formed was a letter from the British foreign minister, who was a hard-core labor union – like really leftist – Foreign Minister Bevin, which he wrote to – he wrote to Harry Truman.  And that came from looking at social democratic governments in Eastern Europe, in the post-war period, from ’45 to ’48, one by one being taken over by hardline communists and then the social democrats all ended up being defenestrated, or something. 

But anyway, and he saw this.  And I mean, he – you look across the continent, and you see that the countries that were briefly democratic again – having won World War II – that their genuinely, popularly elected governments were literally being thrown out the window, in the case of Czechoslovakia.  And so that’s – I mean, the threat isn’t there right now that would make us – or the threat may be there, but it’s not making us nervous enough yet.  And maybe that’s what we need, is we need to be more nervous.

MS. GLASSER:  What a note to end on.  (Laughter.)  President Ilves, thank you so much for sharing that – this with us.  (Applause.)

MR. KEMPE:  And if you could all join us for refreshments.  And just a final thanks to one of the founders of this lecture series, Boyden Gray.  And then there are two patrons of the lecture series here, Jan Lodal, and John Macomber.  Thanks to all of you for supporting it.  If more of you would like to support it, just look in our contribution page on the website or talk to Vicente, who will gladly tell you about it.  But thank you so much for being here tonight.