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9 Dec, 2020 14:54

Do they expect a Russian cavalry invasion? Estonia builds Maginot-esque barbed wire fence on border to ‘make EU safer’

Do they expect a Russian cavalry invasion? Estonia builds Maginot-esque barbed wire fence on border to ‘make EU safer’

An eight-kilometre border wall has been installed on Estonia’s demarcation line with Russia. The tiny Baltic nation hopes it will bolster security, presumably as long as no would-be invaders get their hands on a ladder.

In July, Tallinn announced that it would break ground on 23.5km of frontier fortifications as part of a $80 million upgrade, including physical barriers, patrol roads and surveillance equipment. Now, according to one of the country’s top border officials, the fence is “already standing.”

Estonia’s Minister of the Interior Alar Laneman hailed the installation as being of both “practical and... very big symbolic and political significance.” He added that it stood on “the European Union and NATO’s external border and we all understand that a well-equipped border furnished with the needed technical means and secured is very important for Estonia and the EU to live safely.”

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From what the fence might be providing protection, the minister didn’t make clear. On Tuesday, Moscow announced that it would imminently receive the first batch of Armata T-14 main battle tanks, described as among the most advanced in the world. According to media reports, it can withstand freezing temperatures, evade enemy missiles and is even potentially capable of operating on Mars. However, its manufacturers don’t state whether its fearsome advance would be foiled by a fence.

Estonia is the only NATO member still engaged in a border dispute with Russia, after the country’s parliamentarians refused to sign off on a 2014 deal. The country’s leaders refused to contemplate withdrawing claims to Russian territory near Pskov and St Petersburg. Historically, its fears about Russia have helped unite a country that at times has faced political turmoil, with a leading minister forced to resign from the right-wing government in November after claiming Joe Biden’s putative win in the US Presidential elections was the work of the “deep state.”

The story of the past few decades of Eastern European history has been one of tearing down walls, rather than putting them up. But Estonia's mini-Maginot Line bucks that trend, and could inoculate against rogue wildlife, lost tourists and cavalry troops taking the country by storm. However, as a former Soviet Republic, Estonia will know that the USSR disbanded its horse-mounted soldiers in 1947, after the end of the Second World War.

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In 2018, the Commander of Estonia’s special forces, Rhio Uhtegi, warned Western media of the threat that Russia poses to the country, and said that Estonia has a doctrine of mass-mobilisation and total war in the event of invasion. “They can get to Tallinn in two days,” he said, “but they will die in Tallinn.”

Estonia clearly believes it may be too attractive a prospect for the Kremlin to pass up, even with the threat of a long and bloody war. The country is rich in natural resources, including wood, construction sand and sea mud that is said to have healing properties for use in skin treatments.

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