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”Я не знаю, что будет, если русские действительно начнут сражаться. Знаю только, что сражаться будет и каждый эстонец”, — сказал Юхтеги.
“When I got back, I had this dream. There was a battle, just next to my hometown. Us against the Russians. And we were badly organized, of course. There were trenches, built between the hills near Elva. All my friends were there. The Russians were coming from the south, from Valge.
“Most of us died. And I smelled the blood and the ammunition so clearly. I picked up a Kalashnikov from a dead Russian soldier and I shot at them. And then we ran and hid in the woods. We were being hunted. At first we had a squad. And then only a few guys. And then I was alone, and I was running. And I understood then where I was running. To the sea.” In Soviet times, Estonia’s coasts were heavily controlled, as those who found their way to a rowboat tended to drift away to Finland and Sweden.
“When I got there, it was evening, and the sun was down, and the sea was already still and flat. And I saw mirrored on the water a white ship.” (In Estonia, white ships are symbols of hope, release, and freedom—during the occupation, a symbol that the West had finally come to rescue Estonia.) “I was already in the water, up to my waist. And I stood there, with this empty Kalashnikov in my hand. Behind me, I could hear the dogs in woods, and the shouting in Russian. They were coming.
“I was ready to go to the ship. I was in the water. But I stopped, and I thought. Home is here. I have to stay. No matter what happens. This is where I belong.”
“The Kaitseliit was established against hybrid threats—against internal threats,” Uhtegi said. (America’s Baltic allies spend far less time denying that the Kremlin is quite comfortable manipulating their citizens’ views and internal social dynamics through whatever means available.) Uhtegi believes the scrappy initiative of the Kaitseliit in the early days, which necessitated innovation and planning, must be fully restored. This process has begun under the current Kaitseliit commander. “Territorial defense is very local. It has to be their responsibility. This village. This town. This bridge. This river. This piece of land. It’s theirs to defend … They must know their terrain and how to use it.” The Kaitseliit is the framework that knows the local landscape—and into which other trained men and women can immediately integrate in times of crisis.