WASHINGTON – President Bush, acknowledging he could stand to "learn a lot" about cyber-security, expressed concern Monday over the high-tech hacking that crippled computer systems in Estonia.
Bush praised Estonia's president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, for sharing information on how to deal with such security breaches.
Estonia claims it has suffered cyber attacks against its government and corporate Web sites at the hands of Russian hackers, as retribution in a bitter dispute with Moscow over the removal of a Red Army statue in downtown Tallinn.
The Russian government has denied involvement.
Bush stayed away from the touchy matter, instead focusing on the lesson of vulnerability for the United States.
"Thank you for your clear understanding of the dangers that imposes not only on your country, but mine and others as well," Bush told Ilves after their meeting in the Oval Office.
Bush praised Estonia, a former Soviet republic, for contributing troops to the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He briefly noted the latest suicide bombing in Baghdad on Monday, which killed at least 12 people, including a U.S.-allied tribal sheik.
"All the more reason, Mr. President, for us to remain firm and strong as we stand for this young democracy," Bush told Ilves.
Ilves thanked the United States for standing by his country's quest for independence "even in the darkest of times."
Yet he again came calling on Bush to include Estonia and other countries in a visa waiver program, which allows citizens of some countries to enter the U.S. with only passports. Bush said the program is inconsistent, and he is lobbying Congress to change that.
"Our people don't always understand why it is that those countries that have been the strongest supporters of the United States find it often the most difficult to come for a vacation," Ilves said.