Countries on the EU’s eastern border call for better ground defence 

In a joint letter, Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have urged the EU to establish a collectively financed ground defence line along Europe’s eastern border. 

This proposal is rooted in the Shield East and Baltic Defence Line projects, which involve defensive installations and infrastructure on the borders shared with Russia and Belarus.

Since Russia’s war on Ukraine began, EU member states have been advocating for increased defence funding. However, the European Commission has struggled to finalise plans that use ‘innovative solutions’ for funding the bloc’s defence industry, pending a needs assessment to justify the proposed €500 billion fund. 

EU diplomats estimate the cost of constructing the defence infrastructure along the 700-kilometer border with Russia and Belarus to be approximately €2.5 billion.

The letter from the four countries talked about the need for measures to protect and defend the EU’s external border using both military and civilian resources. 

They stated, “Building a defence infrastructure system along the EU external border with Russia and Belarus will address the urgent need to secure the EU from military and hybrid threats.” 

These threats include a mix of military actions and non-military tactics such as disinformation, cyberattacks, economic pressure, and the manipulation of migrant flows.

This Polish-Baltic appeal comes amid increased hybrid operations by Russia against the West. Western intelligence agencies have been raising alarms about espionage and sabotage threats from Russia across Europe. 

Recently, several European nations, including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and the UK, have investigated and charged people suspected of spying for Russia or collaborating with Russian intelligence.

The EU has also been asked to devise responses to Russia’s escalating hybrid and physical attacks within its territory. The letter suggests that the initiative could leverage the EU’s expertise in integrated border management, critical infrastructure protection, civil protection, crisis management, and military mobility.

The four countries proposed that planning and implementation should be coordinated with NATO and aligned with its military requirements. EU leaders are expected to discuss funding for the bloc’s future defence needs at the upcoming EU Summit, although the bloc’s defence spending plans currently face uncertainty.

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