Baltic defense line: Lithuania to buy most of its counter-mobility equipment in 2024 - BNS THEME

  • 2024-02-19
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuania plans to acquire most of the engineering equipment to impede the movement of a potential enemy this year, and also has plans to set up more than 20 counter-mobility parks, representatives of several institutions say.

Mines would also be used for counter-mobility on the Russian-Belarusian border, bridges and roads would be prepared, and border areas would be reforested in the long term.

The Baltic states agreed to coordinate these measures when their defense ministers signed an agreement on a common defense line in January.

This political declaration fits in with the 2022 agreement signed by Lithuania's political parties, and it stipulates that Lithuania must deploy a physical barrier, surveillance systems and counter-mobility measures, according to National Defense Vice Minister Zilvinas Tomkus.

"It is up to each state to decide what measures it will take at the national level to strengthen the protection of border areas and potentially disrupt the movement of adversaries. But they need to inform their allies, namely Lithuania should inform Latvia and Estonia," Tomkus told BNS.


According to the vice minister, "everything is now moving towards counter-mobility parks".

In September, a pilot counter-mobility park was presented in Vilnius District, and journalists were shown so-called Czech hedgehogs, reinforced concrete blocks and dragon's teeth, and concertina rolls.

Laurynas Kasciunas, chairman of the Lithuanian parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense, said at the time that 18 such parks would be built in the country by the summer of 2024, at a cost of 18 million euros. However, the number of planned parks was later increased to 20.

"It was calculated that more parks were needed to provide more maneuver," Vilmantas Vitkauskas, head of the National Crisis Management Center, told BNS.

Officials do not disclose the locations for the new parks due to security reasons.

Tomkus says the two areas in question are the Kaliningrad strip, which is Lithuania's border with the Russian Federation, and also the Belarusian border.

"The goal is to prepare the engineering parks within a certain period of time. The counter-mobility budget is planned for ten years ahead. Our aim is to do as much as possible in the coming years," Tomkus said, adding that Lithuania plans to spend 1.5 percent of its defense budget on the acquisition of counter-mobility equipment in 2024, i.e. around 32 million euros.

"This year is more infrastructural, so the money is smaller. We expect to have the counter-mobility parks this year, and tenders are being launched for the purchase of equipment. We will be able to buy most of it, if it’s made in Lithuania. If it's made abroad, we may not be able to do everything," Vitkauskas said.


A separate counter-mobility element the Defense Ministry is considering is the use of mining systems to prepare areas to block enemy movement, if necessary.

Civilian counter-mobility measures are also being considered, ad they would be put in place on roads and bridges.

Tomkus says the agreement signed by the Baltic ministers also stresses the importance of natural constraints, and Lithuania mulls using drainage ditches for counter-mobility and foresting border areas.

According to Vitkauskas, mines would not be stored in counter-mobility parks, but they would be brought from warehouses designed to store explosives.

"We can take mines from the current reserve formed for the army, and then we would rebuild the stocks. The procurement of both land and sea mines is planned this and next year, which is an ongoing process," the NCMC chief said.

As for the preparation of bridges and roads, Vitkauskas says the goal is to make them impassable.

"These are certain engineering solutions and they include fixed pop-up poles, as well as making bridges unusable to stop the movement of adversaries to some extent," the official said.

Meanwhile, it will take at least 50 years for reforestation and drainage ditches to be effective.

"The focus is on keeping the 20-km stretch from the Russian and Belarusian borders free of logging, keeping strips of trees along roads, which, if cut down, could stop the movement of adversaries," the NCMC head told BNS.

Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas says Lithuania is ahead of Latvia and Estonia in terms of counter-mobility, but the Baltic defense line remains a conceptual idea.

"We are buying equipment, and we are a bit further advanced than our neighbors. They are catching up with us, the Baltic defense line is still a concept and all of this needs money," the minister said last week.

Tomkus told BNS there were no plans to install counter-mobility measures in peacetime.

"The goal is to make them mobile, redeployable, because static measures are quickly destroyed. The same thing is with kinetic means: they will not be put in place but will be stored and used in case of need," the vice minister said.


Roland Muroff, spokesman for Estonia's Defense Ministry, told BNS last week that the country planned to build a number of fortifications, including around 600 bunkers and various counter-mobility measures.

In addition, storage areas will be provided for non-explosive ordnance and other counter-mobility equipment.

"As much as possible we also seek to use the natural obstacles in northeastern and southeastern Estonia. No placement of explosive ordnance on the border is planned in Estonia during peacetime. The planning process is underway this year and construction is scheduled to start next year," he said.

Latvia has not yet made any public announcements about its plans in this area, and the country's Defense Ministry did not respond to BNS' request for information.

Following the signing of the agreement on the Baltic defense line, Latvian Minister Andris Spruds said that "this initiative will significantly boost our capability to protect our borders".

"This is a joint project for Baltic countries, which will also advance NATO’s collective defense," he said.