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Six Nato countries plan ‘drone wall’ to defend borders with Russia

May 26, 2024

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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 amend the frontiers.

Ministers from Finland, Norway, Poland and the three Baltic states said at the weekend that they had discussed creating a co-ordinated system of drones along their borders with Russia to prevent smuggling and further provocations, and to help with defence.

“This is a completely new thing — a drone wall stretching from Norway to Poland — and the goal is to use drones and other technologies to protect our borders . . . against provocations from unfriendly countries and to prevent smuggling,” Lithuania’s interior minister Agnė Bilotaitė told the Baltic News Service.

All six countries have faced so-called hybrid attacks — non-military measures that tend to have an element of deniability — from Russia in recent months and years, including undocumented asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East being sent over their borders.

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

Details of the timing and how the drone wall would work were not provided. Bilotaitė said each country needed to do its “homework” and suggested EU funds could be used as well.

Map showing locations of countries in eastern and northern Europe

The frontline Nato states have stepped up warnings about Russia’s intentions after Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and its subsequent moving of its economy to a war footing.

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

A day later, Russian border guards removed 25 buoys from Estonian waters that were marking the border, sparking outrage and messages of support for Tallinn from Nato and a number of its member states.

Many Nato countries believe Russia could test Nato’s border within the next five to 10 years, while intelligence services have uncovered a number of assumed sabotage operations on their soil.

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

The six Nato countries also discussed plans at the meeting for evacuating large parts of their population in the event of a conflict. Finnish officials, for instance, have expressed surprise that Ukraine has kept its civilian population in or close to the frontlines, saying the defence plans of the Nordic country involve evacuating border populations.

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