Estonia’s new president warns of threat from Russian hybrid warfare

Estonia’s president has warned that the Baltic states should prepare for Russia’s use of hybrid warfare tactics, saying they must be ready for cyber attacks and migrant flows to be employed against them.

Alar Karis said that although there was no direct threat to Estonia, he was worried about the thousands of Russian troops being sent to Belarus for snap military exercises. Belarus last year deliberately funnelled large numbers of migrants to its borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in an effort to unsettle the EU countries.

“We need to be ready . . . hybrid attacks, cyber attacks: these things can happen,” Karis told the Financial Times. The crisis on the Belarus-EU border last year, when migrants were trapped in often freezing conditions, “was definitely not orchestrated by the migrants themselves, but by Belarus — and even Russia itself. This is what we have to be prepared for”.

The Baltic states have raised their military readiness and called for increased Nato presence in their region as Russia continues to gather its forces on Ukraine’s border close to the eastern flank of the military alliance.

The UK this week confirmed that it would double its presence in Estonia, where it leads a 1,000-strong multinational battlegroup. Germany said it would send more troops to Lithuania and Canada is considering increasing its troop numbers in Latvia.

“Deterrence is something that works if we deal with Russians. The more troops we have over here the better,” Karis said. “For a small country like Estonia, it’s important that we feel secure.”

The Baltic countries are particularly concerned about the more than 30,000 Russian troops on an unannounced exercise in Belarus, which has strong ties with Moscow. “If these troops stay there, of course it’s a problem because [Belarus] is not going to be independent any more,” he said.

The Belarusian border with Lithuania and Poland is just 100km from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, a stretch known as the Suwalki Gap that is considered one of Nato’s…