Anti-Russian sentiments, combined with the fear of a Russian invasion, are growing in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. This is contributing to the increase in military expenses and a military presence on the ground, both national and international.
Since Russia’s annexation of the Crimea three years ago and the ensuing conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Riflemen’s Union, a Lithuanian paramilitary group born almost a century ago, has seen a sharp rise in membership. The group, which boasts more than 10,000 members, only four years ago had around 6,000 members. The same is happening in Latvia where the National Guard now counts more than 8,000 members, and has doubled the regular army, and in Estonia where the Estonian Defence League membership is rapidly growing. These groups organize several drills and training sessions each month, during which hundreds of people gather in fields and woods to practice military tactics and use of weapons. One of the main objectives is to forge a the patriotic spirit. Also in the younger generations.
With nearly half the Riflemen’s Union members under the age of 18, the Union’s free summer youth camps familiarize also thousands of Lithuania’s youth with military values, tactics, weapons and patriotism, and the same happens with the Latvian Youth Guards and the Estonian Young Eagles groups, where youngsters under 17 are taught how to use weapons (mainly soft air guns) properly, as well as military tactics and patriotic lessons.
All this with one main objective: raise a new generation of patriots.
Differently to other European militias, especially in Eastern Europe, the Baltic paramilitary groups are composed of different kinds of people with different backgrounds, linked by the common fear of Russia and a rising Nationalism that is spreading among the societies and in the younger generations.
Costas the hunter, Rimalda the religion teacher, Aurimas the patriot biker, Edmundas the student, Janis the council manager, Arvidas the 14 years old kid, Davis the mechanic, Andrei the border guard, are all training to defend their country and are ready to take up weapons to do so.