Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Military Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Estonians join paramilitary forces to face Russia fears
Narva, Estonia (AFP) Jan 18, 2017

A machine guns rattles as pale and exhausted teams of Estonian weekend warriors struggle to climb a final obstacle: the wall of Narva Castle facing their country's powerful neighbour Russia.

The bullets fired on the snowy banks of the Narva river separating Estonia from Russia are blanks, but the steely determination of volunteers participating in Utria Assault, the NATO member's biggest annual military competition, is palpable.

Ruth Maadla, a waitress who spends her weekends as a paramilitary volunteer, told AFP she would give her all to help defend the small Baltic nation of 1.3 million people "if anything ever happened".

Sporting white winter camouflage gear, a headlamp and a huge backpack, the 29-year-old who has just finished a brutal 90-kilometre (56-mile) marching race in bone-chilling subzero temperatures is in high-spirits, despite being caked in mud and nursing painful blisters on her heels.

Like other east Europeans, Estonians were deeply disturbed by Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and its subsequent support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

US President-elect Donald Trump then raised more concerns with his campaign threat to think twice about defending NATO's eastern allies.

These factors coupled with Kremlin sabre rattling in the Baltic region -- especially in its heavily militarised Kaliningrad exclave -- have triggered a paramilitary revival in eastern European states that were under Moscow's thumb during the Soviet era.

Part of the USSR until 1991, Estonia has seen its Kaitseliit volunteer paramilitary force expand by 10 percent over the last two years.

- 'Citizens with strong will' -

With 16,000 members -- up to 25,600 including units for women and children -- the organisation is seen as a crucial extension of the EU member's modest military force comprising 6,500 peacetime personnel, half of them conscripts.

While some paramilitary volunteers play war games to hone skills like shooting or orienteering, others prefer more peaceful duty like wielding knitting needles to make socks for war victims in eastern Ukraine.

The Kaitseliit force has even attracted some volunteers who are ethnic Russian, part of Estonia's largest minority accounting for about a quarter of its population.

Kaitseliit commander, Brigadier General Meelis Kiili, describes the force he leads as "a very important element in deterrence" when facing Russia.

The role of "ordinary citizens with a strong will to defend" must not be underestimated, Kiili told AFP, as he congratulated a troupe of volunteers exhausted after the two sleepless nights they spent marching through snowy forests in the race.

Many are former military conscripts, but more and more ordinary Estonians and women, like Maadla or Sille Laks, are joining.

A 30-year-old cyber security expert from Tallinn, Laks told AFP that she has spent around 400 hours in Kaitseliit basic training over three months.

"It's about doing something for my country," said the athletic public servant as she braved the freezing cold before dawn to supervise one of the checkpoints in the competition.

While NATO's collective defence clause is the bottom-line guarantee of Estonia's security, analysts acknowledge that paramilitaries do have a role to play.

"In the worst case scenario, Russia could advance very swiftly to take all of Estonia, but with its own resistance, Estonia could buy more time" for help to arrive, said Kristi Raik, a senior Baltic security researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, stressing that any such attack was unlikely at the moment.

- Under NATO's wing -

Moscow upped the ante in the Baltic region late last year by deploying nuclear-capable Iskander missiles into its Kaliningrad outpost bordering NATO member Lithuania and Poland and sending two ships capable of launching warheads to the Baltic Sea.

The move came on the heels of NATO's decision to deploy four multinational battalions to eastern Europe, including a 1,100-strong rotational unit that will be stationed as of April at the Tapa military base, an hour's drive from the Estonian capital Tallinn.

Over the next few months, the United States will also deploy part of a 3,500-troop armoured brigade to Estonia and Baltic neighbours Latvia and Lithuania.

They have all eyed Trump's pro-Moscow rhetoric with mounting unease.

Ordered by the outgoing Obama administration to reinforce NATO's vulnerable eastern flank, the US brigade arrived in Poland last week as part of one of the largest deployment of US forces in Europe since the Cold War, an operation that Moscow angrily branded a security threat.

While the advent of a Trump presidency adds an element of uncertainty to future US commitment to defend vulnerable eastern European allies, Estonia's paramilitary chief remains confident about NATO's resolve.

"It's not only Trump we are talking about, NATO has 28 members," Kiili told AFP.

Comment on this article using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
US, Baltic states sign military pacts as Trump uncertainty grows
Vilnius (AFP) Jan 17, 2017
The United States and Baltic NATO allies Estonia and Lithuania signed military deals on Tuesday as President-elect Donald Trump's pro-Moscow stance stokes uncertainty about future commitments. Fellow Baltic state Latvia has also inked a similar agreement defining the status of hundreds of US troops that are to be deployed this year to deter a more militarily aggressive Russia on NATO's vulne ... read more

Italy joins EUROSAM's Aster 30 B1NT program

SBIRS GEO Flight 3 encapsulated for launch

U.S. Air Force prepares SBIRS satellite for launch

US would 'not necessarily' shoot down NKorean missile: Pentagon

Raytheon, U.S. Navy complete Tomahawk flight tests

U.S. Navy helos getting Lockheed Martin counter-missile capability

Russian Smerch, Uragan Rocket Launchers to Get Stealth Cloaks

India test-fires guided Pinaka Rocket Mark-II

Liteye, Tribalco to deliver AUDS systems to U.S. armed forces

UAV performs first ever perched landing using machine learning algorithms

IS using hobby drones to bomb Iraqi forces in Mosul: US official

Pentagon's Mystery Space Plane Stays in Orbit for 600 Days

Sharing battlefield information at multiple classification levels via mobile handheld devices

BAE Systems contracted for radio frequency countermeasure services

Harris secures $403 million tactical radio support contract

U.S. Navy selects Raytheon for tactical radio production

Retired US generals to Trump: 'Torture is unnecessary'

What Russia's railgun can really do

Safran to design new inertial navigation system

Leidos to support counter-IED organization

Damascus says Israel missiles caused airbase explosions

Saudi unblocks military aid to Lebanon: Lebanese source

Pro-Iraqi militias using arms from 16 countries: Amnesty

Estonia consolidates military procurement process

Xi says globalisation here to stay as Trump readies for office

Saudi Arabia sees China rise as stabilising

EU says Lithuania can use funds for border surveillance, not fences

China's sea militarisation 'very troubling': Philippine defence chief

Lighting up ultrathin films

Zeroing in on the true nature of fluids within nanocapillaries

Nano-chimneys can cool circuits

The researchers created a tiny laser using nanoparticles

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement