Hanno Pevkur, the Minister of Defense of Estonia (EMoD) announced at a press conference in Riga on Friday Jan. 19 that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have agreed to build a defensive line consisting of a series of interlinked bunkers on their eastern borders to defend against a future military attack from Russia and Belarus.

He emphasized that the plans were based on decisions made at the 2023 NATO Madrid Summit which called on Allies to be ready to defend their territory from the first meter by developing regional defense plans.

Pevkur said “The Baltic countries are one area of operations, and therefore [our] defense installations will be built in coordination with Latvia and Lithuania.”

He went on to say that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated the need for “physical defensive installations on the border” as well as increased levels of equipment, ammunition, and manpower.

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Estonia indicated that it would build around 600 concrete bunkers linked with distribution lines at a cost of more than € 60 million ($65 million).  Each bunker is designed to support ten troops for extended periods and would include sleeping accommodation and life-support equipment.

Kaido Tiytus, an advisor to the EMoD provided sketches of the range of bunkers that would be built. These would consist of T-shaped trenches, camouflaged by foliage and were designed to withstand a direct hit from a 152 mm projectile as well as enemy fire and projectile fragments.

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The visit coincided with the ongoing “anti-terrorist” exercise involving Chinese and Belarusian troops on the Polish border, with the discussions on “logistics support” a cause of some concern.

Schematic design for the range of bunkers to form the Baltic defensive line. Source Estonian MoD

Tiytus said that, in addition to the bunker complexes, “dragon's teeth” tank barriers, barrier minefields and barbed wire would be stockpiled nearby for installation when necessary. They would not be placed during peacetime to minimize the effect on the local population and to make maintenance more straightforward.

He said that “Russia is and will be the biggest threat to Estonia's security. The war in Ukraine has reduced the offensive power of Russia, but … [it is likely] to restore [its capability] within two or three years. We must be ready and make the price of an attack on Estonia for Russia as high as possible.”

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The head of the operational department of the Estonian General Staff, Colonel Tarmo Kundla, noted that the bunkers under construction would be laid out to form several defense zones near the border. The exact layout of the overall defensive plan would be completed by the year end after consultation with local communities and landowners. Installation of the bunkers would begin in the first half of 2025, with construction likely to last two to three years.

Kundla noted that the bunkers that will be built should not be noticeable in nature and visually not noticeable in the landscape. “Bunkers will leave a barely noticeable trace in nature,” he said.

There will be no permanent security at the bunkers nor will fences be placed around them. However, all bunkers will have locking doors and security maintained by regular visits and security checks.

A later EMoD statement, issued on behalf of the three nations’ defense ministers, said they had also signed a Letter of Intent to procure US HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and other advanced weapons and to create a framework for the joint use of the weapon systems. Estonia and Latvia also signed a cooperation agreement to conduct NATO Air Policing from Latvia's Lielvarde air base while the runway at Estonia’s Ämari air base is under repair.

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The statement also said that discussions were held on issues related to additional support to Ukraine, capability development and the upcoming NATO Washington Summit.

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