Poland, Baltics call for EU defense line on border with Russia, Belarus

  • 2024-06-27

RIGA - Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia called on Wednesday for the European Union to build a defense line along the bloc's border with Russia and Belarus to protect the EU from military threats and other harmful activities from Moscow.

In a letter to the chairman of the EU to be discussed at a summit in Brussels starting on Thursday, the leaders of the four countries that share borders with Russia and Belarus said the project, to protect the 27-nation bloc of 450 million people, would also need the financial support of all members.

"Building a defense infrastructure system along the EU external border with Russia and Belarus will address the dire and urgent need to secure the EU from military and hybrid threats," said the letter of the four leaders, seen by Reuters.

"The scale and costs of this joint endeavor require a dedicated EU action to support it both politically and financially," the letter said.

Some EU diplomats estimated the cost of building such a defensive line on the ground along the 700 km EU border with Russia and Belarus at around 2.5 billion euros ($2.67 billion).

European investment in defense and its financing will be one of the main topics of discussion among EU leaders at the summit, as Russia's war against Ukraine has entered its third year and Moscow is stepping up hybrid operations against the West.

The call for a jointly funded ground defense line on the eastern border of the European Union comes on top of an earlier initiative by Greece and Poland to create an EU air defense system, modeled on the Israeli Iron Dome, that would coordinate the now separate air defense systems of EU countries.

"Extraordinary measures need to be employed as the EU's external border must be protected and defended with military and civilian means," the letter of the four countries said.

The letter said the planning and execution of the defense line on the EU's eastern border should be done in coordination with NATO and its military requirements.

Latvian Prime Minister Evika Silina (New Unity) said on X portal that the EU's external borders must be protected and defended by military and civilian means. This joint effort requires specific EU action, the prime minister believes.

Countries in Eastern Europe can feel what it is like to be on the EU's frontline, and there is also a negative economic impact on border regions and local communities, said Silina. At the same time, this has not affected the unwavering support for Ukraine.

The prime minister believes that much more needs to be done. "We need a defense initiative to protect Europeans today and in the future," said Silina.