NATO Allies Plan to Boost Drone Defenses Amid Russian Activity in Baltic

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A coalition of NATO allies has resolved to create a “drone wall” to oversee the trans-Atlantic alliance’s borders with Russia, in response to a series of actions from Moscow that indicate increasing “hybrid” pressures in the Baltic States region.

“This is an entirely new initiative—a drone wall extending from Norway to Poland,” Lithuanian Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė explained to regional media on Friday. “The objective is to employ drones and other technologies to safeguard our borders against provocations from hostile nations and prevent smuggling.”

Bilotaitė and her peers foresee a border security framework stretching from Norway and Finland to the Baltic States and Poland. These drone networks are expected to offer early warnings in case of emergencies requiring mass evacuation, she hinted.

“We have agreed to conduct regional drills to ensure the evacuation of populations, to assess how well our institutions are prepared to cooperate, our capacity to accommodate people, and the readiness of other countries to receive a certain number of our people,” she stated.

Bilotaitė revealed the plan while regional leaders expressed concern over Russian border activities, such as the recent removal of boundary buoys by Russian authorities from the river separating NATO member Estonia and Russia.

“On Thursday early morning, Russian border guards unilaterally removed light buoys placed by Estonia on the Narva River to demarcate the border with Russia,” European Union High Representative Josep Borrell stated on Friday. “This border incident is part of a broader pattern of provocative behavior and hybrid actions by Russia, including on its maritime and land borders in the Baltic Sea region. Such actions are unacceptable. The European Union expects an explanation from Russia regarding the removal of the buoys and their immediate return.”

Estonian authorities vowed to reinstate the buoys unless Russia provided a compelling justification for their removal.

“The Police and Border Guard Board will reach out to the Russian Border Guard to request clarifications on the removal and return of the buoys,” Estonian border official Eerik Purgel told local media this week. “The Police and Border Guard Board expects Russia to provide evidence of any changes in the shipping route’s position previously agreed upon, and if not presented, we will proceed with reinstalling the buoys.”

Officials from both governments usually place buoys in the river each spring to delineate national boundaries for boaters. Purgel suggested that this process faltered for political reasons following the escalation of the war in Ukraine, during which Estonia emerged as a fervent advocate for NATO support to Ukraine.

“While the temporary control line is permanently marked on the land border, the riverbed changes over time, necessitating a seasonal rechecking of the shipping route markers,” Purgel explained. “Before the war in Ukraine began, the buoy installation was largely carried out by mutual agreement, but since 2023, Russia does not concur with Estonia’s positions regarding the buoy locations.”

Russian border officials seized the buoys shortly after a draft document from the Russian Defense Ministry, considering the potential revision of Russia’s maritime borders in the Baltic Sea, was published. The document was quickly removed from the website, but Baltic officials remain cautious.

“We continue to collaborate with our neighbors and partners at both the EU and NATO levels to ensure a unified response to the situation,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte told reporters this week. “I believe [Russia’s] aim is to create uncertainty about their actions.”

Joel Gehrke
Joel Gehrke
Joel Gehrke is a foreign affairs reporter, with an emphasis on U.S. competition with China and Russia, Middle East policy following the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, and the crisis in Venezuela. Previously, he covered domestic politics for National Review Online.

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