Estonia announces snap military exercise in response to migration crisis

The Estonian government summoned nearly 1,700 reserve soldiers on Wednesday for a previously unannounced exercise which will include installing a razor wire barrier along 40 km of its border with Russia, as the migration crisis in nearby Belarus intensifies.

According to the Estonian government, the snap exercise is scheduled to last until November 25 and was called to test the rapid response of the national chain of command.

“Reserve soldiers will help install 40 km of razor wire in places along the Russian border, where risk of illegal crossings are highest,” Estonian police and Border Guard explained in a statement. The EU neighbours of Belarus, a close Russian ally, have warned that the crisis could lead to a military clash. They have declared a state of emergency at their border areas and deployed military forces there.

“What is happening in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia also requires the strengthening of the border infrastructure in Estonia,” Elmar Vaher, chief of Estonian Police and Border Guard, stressed.

Estonia has a similar geopolitical history to Lithuania and Latvia, although it has no border with Belarus.

The EU has accused Belarus of flying in thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa and pushing them to cross into EU and NATO members Poland, Latvia and Lithuania in retaliation for sanctions already imposed on Minsk. Belarus has denied deliberately fomenting the crisis.