"This is not some virtual world. This is part of our independence. And these attacks were an attempt to take one country back to the cave, back to the Stone Age."
Linnar Viik, an Estonian government IT consultant to the Washington Post.
A second preview (the first was the disruption of Georgian energy systems in 2006) of 21st Century state vs. state conflict can be seen in Russia's attack on Estonia (which has ramped rapidly since it began at the end of April). In this case, as opposed to the physical disruption of systems used against Georgia, the Russians have opted to use the Internet as a weapon. Russia's denial of service attacks (computer attacks that shut down Web sites by flooding them with traffic) by phisher and extortionist botnets (composed of over 1 million compromised/infected computers), have spread beyond attacks on government computers to attacks on banks, ISPs, newspapers, universities, and a host of private businesses (the effects of these attacks are exacerbated by the heavy reliance Estonia has placed on e-government/economy infrastructure). The sophistication of these attacks has also increased.
This type of campaign is similar to the effects based operations (EBO) conducted by the US Air Force against Iraq (twice) and the systems disruption we see from global guerrillas around the world. In all cases the aim of the attacks is to disrupt the target society, leaving it prostrate and unable to function as a modern country (read Brave New War for background on this).
Another interesting aspect of this campaign is that it is being conducted by a combination of government agencies and outsourced talent from the Internet black marketplace (and many hackers joy riding for free since the Russian government declared open season on Estonia). The end-result is that the free form, open source nature of this campaign has allowed the Russian government a level of deniability. We see similar developments going on in China. It's important to point out that this is different than the trend towards states adopting fourth generation warfare as their primary defensive strategy against conventional attack (Iran/Syria/Venezuela/etc.). In this case, Russia (and it seems China too) has adopted the offensive power of global guerrillas.NOTE: this would be a great investigative article to write.