TAPA, Estonia — At NATO’s Tapa military base in central Estonia, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a heightened sense of purpose among the troops.
On a recent weekday, and despite heavy snow, there were plenty of signs of activity in and around the frontline camp — just 160 kilometers from the Russian border — as soldiers wondered what Russian President Vladimir Putin’s future plans might be.
In the town of Tapa, north of the base, armed Estonian conscripts practiced street patrols, methodically checking side roads for would-be invaders. Closer to the main camp, a civilian police vehicle skidded to a halt to block oncoming traffic before a convoy of eight hulking military trucks came barrelling along on a training exercise. Armored vehicles could also be seen tracking the edge of a forest further off-road.
Inside the camp, Colonel Andrus Merilo, who as head of Estonia’s first infantry brigade functions as base commander, said Moscow’s decision to launch a full-scale invasion of one of its neighbors had focussed people’s minds on the task at hand here: national defense and the potential threat Russia could pose toward Estonia.
“Vigilance is the key thing,” he said. “We must exercise it now, so we don’t miss any indications that the threat will be directed towards Estonia.”
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