Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February sent shockwaves around the globe. But this isn’t the first time nations have endured Russian aggression: President Vladimir Putin has spent years trying to restore Russia’s status as a superpower on the global stage. In fact, in 2005, he gave a glimpse into his ambitions when he said the collapse of the Soviet Union “was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”. With Ukraine now forced to defend its territory in a bloody conflict, neighbouring European nations will be acutely aware of the vulnerability of their position.
Olga Lautman, an academic from the Centre for European Policy Analysis and all-round Russia expert – spoke to Express.co.uk, saying she believes Putin will indeed turn his attention to other countries in Europe if he succeeds in Ukraine.
As shown in the map graphic below, there are a number of countries that have already been threatened by the Kremlin.
Ms Lautman said: “The West must supply Ukraine with as much military support as it can, because if Russia succeeds in Ukraine they will expand their war.
“The war will come out of Ukraine into other parts of Europe.”
Asked if Putin would invade other European countries, she added: “Absolutely. We have already seen Russia laying the groundwork in Transnistria to try and destabilise Moldova, we saw the same in South Ossetia to destabilise Georgia.”
Georgia shares a border with Russia to the north and northeast, and was at war with the country in 2008.
Meanwhile, many feared Moldova could be a target of Moscow’s when Putin ally and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko pointed to a map in March which showed Russian troops entering the country in a hypothetical military operation.
Ms Lautman believes other countries could also be vulnerable to Russian aggression.
She continued: “Then of course Poland, we have heard the former Russian prime minister Medvedev’s comments about Poland.”
Ms Lautman is referring to a letter former Russian president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev wrote in March.
In it, he warned Poland will suffer as a result of its support for Ukraine.
Now the deputy chairman of the Russian security council, Mr Medvedev wrote: “The interests of the citizens of Poland have been sacrificed due to Russophobia of ‘mediocre politicians’ and their ‘puppeteers from across the ocean’ with clear signs of senile insanity.
“The decision to abandon the purchase of Russian gas, oil and coal, the opposition to Nord Stream 2 have already caused serious damage to the economy of this country. Now it will only get worse.”
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Ms Lautman also warned that Finland, Sweden and the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) could be targeted.
She said: “We have also seen the threats against Finland and Sweden because they wanted to join NATO, and you have the Baltics too.”
Last month, Finland and Sweden submitted their applications to join NATO, an historic moment as the countries had for decades committed to neutrality amid tensions between Moscow and the west.
But the invasion of Ukraine provoked a change of heart in the Scandinavian countries.
In March, Russian foreign affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova warned that Finland and Sweden could face “military consequences” if they try to join NATO.
She said: “Obviously, the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, which is primarily a military alliance as you well understand, would have serious military and political consequences, which would require our country to make response steps.”
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One stumbling block that has emerged for Finland and Sweden is Turkey – the country has expressed concerns about their wish to join NATO.
As for the Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – these countries have also endured Russian misinformation campaigns as well as aggressive rhetoric.
All are now members of the EU and NATO, but in June 1940 they were invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union.
They remained a part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda urged the US in March to increase its support for the country, warning that “deterrence is no longer enough, and we need more defence here, because otherwise it will be too late here. Putin will not stop in Ukraine; he will not stop.”
At the same time, EU Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, a Latvian politician, warned: “If we do not support Ukraine, it’s not going to stop in Ukraine. Clearly Putin is now in some kind of aggressive war mood and unfortunately it is likely that this aggression will continue in other countries.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Ms Lautman gave a worrying conclusion.
She said: “Basically the whole eastern and central region in Europe is at risk, and Russia will not think twice about expanding their military operations, even if they do it with hybrid warfare tactics.”