In the 1600s, England did not yet rule the seas. Spain did. England, France and the Netherlands were competing for second place. As a way to harass Spain, those other countries allowed pirates to operate from their overseas possessions. "Allow" is doing a lot of work there - one English pirate, Henry Morgan, became a baronet and Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica.
From the English point of view, piracy was a good tool. It was self-funding (maybe even a profit center - pirates had to buy their cannons from somebody) and if an individual pirate was causing too much trouble, disavowing him was easy. The pirate attacks were rarely big enough for Spain to justify going to all-out war over them.
Does any of this sound like the recent spate of ransomware attacks? Self-funding, easy to disavow, and not yet serious enough for the US to launch cruise missiles? It's also being undertaken for the same reasons. Russia is not nearly strong enough to win any sort of protracted war with the US.
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