NATO countries plan a ‘drone wall’ to defend their borders with Russia

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Six NATO countries are planning to develop a “drone wall” to help defend their borders with Russia after a series of provocations, ranging from forced migration to attempts to modify borders.

Ministers from Finland, Norway, Poland and the three Baltic states said at the weekend that they had discussed creating a coordinated drone system along their borders with Russia to prevent smuggling and further provocations, and to help with the defending.

“This is something completely new: a drone wall that stretches from Norway to Poland, and the goal is to use drones and other technologies to protect our borders. . . against provocations from hostile countries and to prevent smuggling,” Lithuanian Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė told the Baltic News Service.

The six countries have faced so-called hybrid attacks (non-military measures that tend to have an element of denial) by Russia in recent months and years, including undocumented asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East who are sent through their borders.

Mari Rantanen, Finland’s interior minister, told public broadcaster Yle that the drone wall plan would “improve over time” and could help defend the Nordic country’s 1,340 kilometer-long border with Russia.

No details were provided about the timing and how the drone wall would work. Bilotaitė said each country needed to do its “homework” and suggested that EU funds could also be used.

Frontline NATO states have stepped up warnings about Russia’s intentions following Moscow’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and subsequent move of its economy into a state of war.

Russia’s Defense Ministry last week published a draft proposal on its website on unilaterally expanding its maritime borders with Lithuania and Finland, before scrapping the plan.

A day later, Russian border guards removed 25 buoys from Estonian waters marking the border, sparking outrage and messages of support for Tallinn from NATO and several of its member states.

Many NATO countries believe that Russia could test the NATO border within the next five to ten years, while intelligence services have uncovered a series of alleged sabotage operations on its territory.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has highlighted the importance of drones, with both sides using them in attacks. Several NATO countries have responded by establishing or stepping up their drone warfare units.

The six NATO countries also discussed plans at the meeting to evacuate much of their population in the event of conflict. Finnish officials, for example, have expressed surprise that Ukraine has kept its civilian population on or near the front, saying the Nordic country’s defense plans involve evacuating border populations.

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