Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Neljapäev, 02 Märts 2017 22:45
Estonian Life No. 9 2017
On 9 February 2017, President Toomas Hendrick Ilves presented the Christopher J. Makins lecture at the Atlantic Council headquarters in Washington, DC. Established in 2005 to honor Christopher J. Makins' service as president of the Atlantic Council. The Makins 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 Robertson, and General Brent Scowcroft.
President Ilves was introduced by Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, who Ilves invigorated Estonia to become a global leader in digital technology, internet access, and the use of online governance to promote openness and accountability.
Ilves stated that the collapse of communism did not result in freedom for many of the countries in Eastern Europe. Twenty five years after the fall of the wall, 80% of the populations in the Radio Free Europe – Radio Liberty broadcast area live in countries that are partially free or completely unfree, according the Freedom House index of freedom. Elections are coming up in the Netherlands, Germany, France, and the Czech Republic, but voices of reason and tolerance are being drowned by fake news, by anti-democratic, often racist rhetoric. Ilves said that the internet has been turned against liberal democracy in ways that could not have been imagined 30 years ago.
He was concerned about the present environment where not only fundamental freedoms, but also democracy, rule of law, and separation of church and state are under attack. The fact that Russian hacking, and fake news riling up anti-immigrant sentiment are benefitting anti-EU and anti-NATO candidates, are serious concerns.
Ilves emphasized that in this new digital age, we must renew our commitment to liberal democracy. He quoted Ronald Reagan who said, "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."
The post-lecture discussion, moderated by Susan Glasser, editor of POLITICO, included a wide variety of timely topics. These included: Ilves' use of Twitter, cyberhacking by advanced persistent threats, Russia's bullying and bilateral approach to treaties, NATO's Article 5 and defense spending at 2% of GDP, Russian annexation of Crimea, Trump-Putin relationship, the strongest supporters of sanctions are countries most affected by the sanctions, dealing with internet security, secure identification for the internet, Estonian e-government and e-residency, combatting disinformation, and fake news on Facebook.