The Polish government has built six unmanned watchtowers overlooking the frontier along the Russia-Poland border.
Cameras at the top of the 164-foot-high towers are meant to help Polish authorities better observe the poorly-guarded border.
The security tower project, first announced in early April, cost about $5 million. Nearly three-quarters of the final price tag was handled by the European Union.
The officially stated purpose of the towers is to monitor and curb illegal immigration and smuggling, but with mistrust between Poland and Russia mounting, some say that the towers will be used in other ways, too.
A resident of the border town of Braniewo, near the site of the towers, told NPR, “We just don’t trust the Russians and there’s a feeling that anything could happen.”
The towers overlook the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Currently, there is a no-visa policy for border crossings, and Poles and Russians frequently cross the border to trade.
Although disconnected from the Russian mainland, Kaliningrad would be a good location for the staging of an invasion of northeastern Europe, according to some experts, because of its strategic positioning.
In addition, there are fears that Russia could use opening a corridor for transit to Kaliningrad as an excuse to send an invasion force through Poland.
Earlier this year, the Ukrainian Prime Minister accused Russia of sneaking weapons into his country to bolster the efforts of pro-Russian separatist rebels.
In the event of conflict within Poland, these new security towers would help monitor potential movements across the border, like Ukraine experienced, and possibly tip off Polish military leaders of impending attacks.
Tensions between Poland and Russia have been on the rise since Russian President Vladimir Putin began his aggressive posturing on a global stage. Some fear that Putin is attempting to resurrect Russian imperialism and that Poland will eventually become a target for Putin’s expansionist tendencies.
In May, the Polish people elected Andrzej Duda, a member of the pro-United States, conservative Law and Justice Party, as their new president. Duda’s victory came as something of a surprise to many analysts.
The Law and Justice Party frequently portrays itself as an ally of the West and an opponent of Russian expansion, and Duda has promised to encourage the Polish parliament to increase defense spending and push back diplomatically and economically against perceived Russian aggression.
“Poland needs a well-equipped military which will be able to effectively deter, so that every [potential aggressor] thinks four times before taking military action against Poland,” Duda said at a policy speech while campaigning.