Citing the right to intervene wherever Russians are deemed to be in trouble, Vladimir Putin has set a possible precedent for future Russian intervention across Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
This map, from Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, highlights the regions in neighbouring countries that have the highest concentrations of Russian citizens, ethnic Russians, and native Russian speakers.
Kazakhstan and Belarus, both countries with large Russian populations, are already within Russia’s sphere of influence. Both countries are members of the Eurasian Economic Community and have strong ties to Russia.
Still, according to Wikistrat senior analyst Mark Galeotti, Russia could take advantage of political instability in either country to send in troops. Again, Russia would justify these movements as peacekeeping.
Likewise, the Moldovan region of Transdniester is fairly ripe for Russian intervention. The region, a generally unrecognised breakaway state, already houses Russian soldiers. Pro-Russian politicians in the region have also officially asked the Russian parliament to draft a law allowing them to join the Russian federation following the events in Crimea.
Meanwhile, Russian intervention in either Latvia or Estonia is highly unlikely due to their NATO membership, but this has not stopped Moscow from voicing concerns over the treatment of ethnic Russians in eastern Estonia.
The United States and NATO have expanded military support to the Baltic nations and Poland after the countries expressed concern following the deployment of Russian troops inside Crimea.
The main question for now, though, is whether Russia will deploy troops into eastern Ukraine under the justification of protecting the native Russians living there. Russia has massed 80,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, and Russia has warned that it could place eastern Ukraine under its protection following clashes between pro-Russian protestors and nationalist Ukrainians.
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