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Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia: Putin's Next Target

Updated on March 18, 2014
Post 1991 Russia today. Pre-1991 Russia would include all of these new countries. Russia lost a lot of territory.
Post 1991 Russia today. Pre-1991 Russia would include all of these new countries. Russia lost a lot of territory.

So, Putin has seized Crimea to secure the only warm water Russian port. He did this without firing a shot and using military force as a threat weapon near the borders and internally. You must admit, it was picture perfect in execution. All the West could do is do what they did with Hitler before WW2 to contain him, talk and negotiate. The West had little to threatened Putin with. The sanctions are scoffed at by Putin. He is calling Obama's bluff.

Putin very well may seize by force the eastern Ukraine because what is NATO going to do? So far, it has been a paper tiger. Sometimes, actions are needed when words are ignored. Putin only understands military prowess. He wants to make Russia "whole" again after the breakup in 1991. But, Putin has other options: The Baltic States.

These states were part of Russia before 1991. Unlike the Ukraine, however, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, are part of NATO now. This might be the "red line" once again, this time, NATO would have to act. As the Ukraine is still up for grabs, Moscow has been using political and economic pressure on the these states. Putin views these states as a threat from the West. Putin ordered to stop exports and imports of food to Lithuania.

Putin is using the same tactics of having pro-Russian supporters in Riga demonstrating for unity with Russia. Russia is one of the largest suppliers and business trade with these Baltic states, so all he would have to do is to stop it and the three small states would be very hard pressed unless the EU rescued them. All of them have a high ethnic Russian population of nearly 25% Russian speaking.

The Ukraine crisis is for Putin all about the defense of ethnic Russians. He has complained about how Latvia is mistreating ethnic Russians. He said that about the Ukraine. The Ukraine is not over, in fact, it is in a TBD mode. Russian troops are poised to roll into eastern Ukraine and the Ukrainian military has called up 20,000 men for defenses. If there is a battle, it would be reminiscent of Poland in 1939, the German army steamrolled over the Polish Army in a few days. Putin may feel this is time to take the best part of the Ukraine-the eastern portion where most of the industry is. It is free for the taking. NATO will do little to prevent it.

The Baltic States are different since they are part of NATO. Already, US aircraft fighters have been based Lithuania.Symbolic, yes, but would Putin push his luck? He might because he hates NATO being so close to Russia and considers the organization pathetic with little guts.

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    • profile image

      mbuggieh 

      4 years ago

      Putin is not going to stop at Crimea. This should be obvious.

      I cannot help but wonder how much Putin has gathered from Edward Snowden has emboldened AND enabled his aggression in Crimea; how much did Putin get that led him to believe that this was a good time to take this action.

      After all, Obama did say (when he thought the "mic" was off) that he could and would be more "flexible" with Putin in a second term.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      4 years ago

      Like I said, the Ukraine is in a TBD state. 20,000 Russian troops, mechanized, are right on the border just waiting for the word Go. The Ukraine forces are scrambling trying to get 40,000 men ready, knowing all to well, it is not going to stop them. The word War is being spoken. If putin takes eastern Ukraine, there is nothing NATO can do. Scary.

    • profile image

      mbuggieh 

      4 years ago

      Stratfor.com (intelligence analysis for non-government interests) notes the following:

      "Moscow’s options are varied, but its most likely strategy is three-pronged: bring pressure to bear on eastern Ukraine with limited military incursions; create unrest in the Baltics (now part of NATO and the European Union) and the Caucasus, and prevent anti-Russian movements from coalescing in eastern Europe.

      Europe’s position now becomes critical. Fractured and burdened by its ongoing financial crisis and lacking unity on military issues, the European Union could find it difficult to counter Russian moves – whether they appear as financial incentives to the struggling states of central and eastern Europe or threats of armed conflict along the periphery. Looking into the future, the Ukraine crisis ultimately could test many of the core assumptions binding the EU – and the NATO alliance – together."

      And we need to pay attention to Mikhail Gorbachev who apparently is still not reconciled the collapse of the Soviet Union.

      Gorbachev is on the record this week not only applauding the outcome of Putin's Crimean aggression as a "happy day", but also boldly suggesting that Putin should look beyond Crimea---and into any areas populated by Russian-speaking people, in order to fulfill Russia's destiny.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 

      4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Putin threatening force to protect Russians in neighboring countries is exactly the excuse Germany used in the 1930's against the Czechs. And Estonia has veterans who fought on both sides of WW2 (depending on who overran them last) and the annual veterans commemorating fighting with Germany against Soviets always stirs up ill-feeling with Russia. This happens every late July, so it will bear watching. Interestingly, Russia and Estonia finally signed a border agreement on Feb 18 this year. If Russian troops entered Estonia (or any of the others) and NATO did not act, that would greatly weaken NATO. Maybe that is the bigger prize?

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