U.S. army vehicles and British soldiers paraded through the streets of an Estonian city just 300 yards from the Russian border yesterday, in a display of Western unity against the encroaching threat from Moscow, The Telegraph reports, Censor.NET informs.
Armoured vehicles from the US Army's Second Cavalry Regiment and British troops were officially taking part in a military parade marking Estonia's Independence Day, but the choice of location was deeply symbolic.
The city of Narva sits in the easternmost part of Estonia, where the country's border juts out into Russia, and has been cited as a potential target for the Kremlin if it should turn its attention from Ukraine to the Baltic states.
A majority of the city's 60,000 residents are ethnically Russian.
The NATO-led parade comes as Russian-backed separatists continue to battle Kiev government troops in eastern Ukraine, with fears rising of a separatist assault on the key coastal city of Mariupol.
"History has taught us that if we do not defend ourselves, nobody else will," General Riho Terras, Estonia's chief of staff, said at the parade.
"The events in Ukraine that have kept the entire world awake, demonstrate very clearly that we ourselves must maintain security," he added.
Around 100 Dutch, Spanish, Latvian and Lithuanian troops also marched in the snow alongside some 1,300 Estonian soldiers to mark the independence of the formerly Soviet-ruled republic.
Estonia, along with Latvia and Lithuania, joined NATO in 2004, to Moscow's chagrin.
Fear of Ukraine also joining the Western military alliance are thought to have prompted Russia's involvement in the Ukraine crisis, including its annexation of Crimea last year.
Lithuania yesterday announced it would restore compulsory military service for young men amid fears of growing Russian aggression.
However, few ethnic-Russian Narva locals who came to the parade seemed to echo fears of a Russian intervention.
"In my opinion national security is blown up by the press, it's nothing serious, everything is okay, no one is going to attack anyone," 55-year-old Yuri Melnikov told AFP.
Elvira Neimann, 77, said she's been living in Narva since the end of the Second World War in 1945: "I feel part of Estonia, not Russia."
"We're all tolerant people, Russia is our friendly neighbour," she told AFP.