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Report: The Baltic States are fighting back

Cold war is raging again on the edges of Europe. In Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, thousands of civilians are preparing for the worst: an attack by the Russians.

Estonia and the Kaitseliit

The rifle at the ready. Camouflage clothes, blond braid under the felt cap: Private Maria, a very young, very harmless face, crouches in a ditch in Estonia. Her parents don't believe her when she says she is ready to die for her country. Cars rush past. The corporal crouches on the grass.

Maria is supposed to march one kilometer south with her group. And not be seen. The enemy is advancing back there. The most important rule of national defense: stop the enemy. Maria gives hand signals to the men behind her. March forward through the bushes, formation like an arrowhead, five meters apart. Maria, 21, says she is the son her father never had.

The enemy doesn't really attack that day. Maria and the others are not regular Estonian soldiers either. They are members of the Kaitseliit, the military volunteer league. These are the last days of the officers' course. The great exercise in the field. 800 participants between paddocks and unploughed potato fields.

The enemy in this scenario attacks with tanks. Of course he does: everyone knows that the enemy is the Russian. And it always comes with tanks. The Estonian army has no main battle tanks. "We're like a guerrilla," says Erik Reinhold, Maria's commander. Reinhold fought with the Americans in Iraq. "Back then we were the occupiers and we were shot at from every tree."

This is supposed to be the case with the Russians in Estonia. Like most of the men and women in the reserve force, Maria does not want to give her surname. "The Russian Enlightenment is not sleeping." Actually, so much may be revealed, the private Maria is studying business management in her sixth semester.

Dmitri Medvedev speaks of the cold war

If Russia's tanks invaded the Baltic States tomorrow, they would be in front of the capitals Tallinn and Riga 36 to 60 hours later. The Baltic states would simply be overrun. That is the result of an American military study. And that is what the Kaitseliit exercise is all about: you have to at least make it harder for the Russians.

25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Balts had actually settled into a peaceful life. Embedded in the European Union, protected by NATO Article 5, defense aid in the event of an alliance.

That still applies, but belief in security has been shaken. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, all of this has left old wounds open. Not only Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is talking about a new cold war.

In this war, the Baltic states are the frontline states. The citizens take up arms. With the voluntary people's defenders in Estonia and also in Latvia and Lithuania. Fear drives these people. And fear draws them further and further into the cold war.

GEO Magazin 07/2016

Curious? You can read the whole article in GEO magazine "The healing power of the sun".