Tensions are rising in Europe’s ex-Soviet Baltic nations that President Vladimir Putin might not stop at invading Ukraine, and could have his sights set on them.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — the Baltic countries located in north-eastern Europe — are now members of the EU and NATO. However, in June 1940 they were invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union and after World War II were a part of the USSR until its collapse in 1991 when they regained their independence.

Today, it’s estimated that a million ethnic Russians still live in the Baltics. That is a worry for the region, as Putin’s pretext for an invasion of Ukraine was the “protecting” of ethnic Russians the country’s east — a justification widely questioned and dismissed by many experts on the region.

Many analysts perceive Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as an attempt to rebuild Russia’s lost Soviet empire, the destruction of which Putin once described as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

Russia has also sought to bring other former Soviet republics into its sphere of influence, including Belarus and Georgia to its north and Moldova to its south, with varying degrees of success. There have been a number of anti-government protests in these countries over the years, most notably Ukraine’s pro-democracy revolutions in 2004 and 2013.

Tensions are rising in Europe’s ex-Soviet Baltic nations that President Vladimir Putin might not stop at invading Ukraine, and could have his sights set on them.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — the Baltic countries located in north-eastern Europe — are now members of the EU and NATO. However, in June 1940 they were invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union and after World War II were a part of the USSR until its collapse in 1991 when they regained their independence.

Today, it’s estimated that a million ethnic Russians still live in the Baltics. That is a worry for the region, as Putin’s pretext for an invasion of Ukraine was the “protecting” of ethnic Russians the country’s east — a justification widely questioned and dismissed by many experts on the region.

Many analysts perceive Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as an attempt to rebuild Russia’s lost Soviet empire, the destruction of which Putin once described as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

Russia has also sought to bring other former Soviet republics into its sphere of influence, including Belarus and Georgia to its north and Moldova to its south, with varying degrees of success. There have been a number of anti-government protests in these countries over the years, most notably Ukraine’s pro-democracy revolutions in 2004 and 2013.

Tensions are rising in Europe’s ex-Soviet Baltic nations that President Vladimir Putin might not stop at invading Ukraine, and could have his sights set on them.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — the Baltic countries located in north-eastern Europe — are now members of the EU and NATO. However, in June 1940 they were invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union and after World War II were a part of the USSR until its collapse in 1991 when they regained their independence.

Today, it’s estimated that a million ethnic Russians still live in the Baltics. That is a worry for the region, as Putin’s pretext for an invasion of Ukraine was the “protecting” of ethnic Russians the country’s east — a justification widely questioned and dismissed by many experts on the region.

Many analysts perceive Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as an attempt to rebuild Russia’s lost Soviet empire, the destruction of which Putin once described as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

Russia has also sought to bring other former Soviet republics into its sphere of influence, including Belarus and Georgia to its north and Moldova to its south, with varying degrees of success. There have been a number of anti-government protests in these countries over the years, most notably Ukraine’s pro-democracy revolutions in 2004 and 2013.

Krista Viksnins, program assistant with the Transatlantic Defense and Security Program at the Center for European Policy Analysis, commented in an editorial last week that the Baltics had good reason to be concerned.

“All three [Baltic countries] have successfully reintegrated into Europe. Yet they are now at risk and must be among the West’s top priorities — Russia has demonstrated its desire to make Ukraine a vassal state through full-scale military action and may not stop its bloody campaigns,” Viksnins wrote.

“Just as Vladimir Putin issued blood-curdling threats to Ukraine before his unprovoked assault, so too he has menaced the Baltic states.”