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Baltic states agree to create joint 'Defense Line'

At a meeting of the of Defense Ministers of the Baltic States in Rīga January 19, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia signed an agreement on the establishment of a joint 'Baltic Defense Line' to strengthen the eastern borders of their countries, of the European Union and of NATO.

The ministers believe that the new initiative will strengthen the ability of the Baltic states to protect their borders and thwart the incursion of any possible enemy – which by definition would be Russia and/or Belarus.

"Together with the Defense Ministers of Estonia and Lithuania, we decided to start the creation of the Baltic Defense Line. This initiative will significantly strengthen the military capabilities of our countries to protect their borders, ensuring the delay and blocking of the movement of any potential adversary. This will be a joint project of the Baltic states and will also help within the framework of NATO's defense plans," said Latvian Defense Minister Andris Sprūds (Progressives) at a joint press conference in the Latvian capital.

"We will establish the Baltic Defense Line to defend NATO's Eastern flank and deny freedom of movement for our adversaries. In the lead up to the historic NATO Summit in Washington we must ensure that the Alliance is better prepared than ever to execute defense plans, strengthen air and missile defence and allocate more resources to defense," Sprūds wrote on social media.

The joint Baltic Defense Line remains conceptual at the moment with little detail given about exactly what it will involve. More detailed "short term and long term" plans are due to be submitted to the Latvian government at the end of the month, Sprūds promised.

However, the emphsis on deterrence and slowing any attacker while help arrives from elsewhere suggests it will involve extensive anti-mobility measures. Estonia has already announced plans to construct around 600 defensive bunkers along its border, so similar measures might be expected to be among those planned in Latvia and Lithunia. 

Estonian Defense Ministry sketch of defensive border bunkers
Estonian Defense Ministry sketch of defensive border bunkers

According to a statement from the Estonian Ministry of Defense:

"The concept of defensive installations is based on the decisions made at the NATO Madrid Summit which emphasized that Allies must be ready to defend the territory from the first meter and new regional defence plans must be developed. The concept combines prevention and field security measures. Elements on the terrain support the activities of the defending units at the base points to stop the aggressor´s troops if necessary. The elements are positioned in the landscape, taking into account the results of the analysis of the enemy´s intent, the environment, and the defence plan. The Baltic countries are one area of operations, and therefore defence installations  will be built in coordination with Latvia and Lithuania."

At the talks in Rīga the defense ministers also signed a Letter of Intent for HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, aiming to create a framework for the joint use of the weapon system in both peace and wartime and the ministers from Latvia and Estonia signed a cooperation agreement to conduct NATO Air Policing from Latvia's Lielvarde air base while the runway at Ämari air base is under repair.



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