After years of work, Moscow has made significant progress in regaining control over the former Soviet states that are crucial to Russia’s security. Russia’s window of opportunity to exert control in its near abroad is a narrow one, however, and so Moscow has prioritized its list of countries where it is trying to consolidate influence. After reining in the four countries imperative to Moscow’s interests — Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Georgia — Moscow will turn its attention to a group of countries where it would like to have more influence.
There are six countries — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — where Moscow would like to reconsolidate its influence if it has the opportunity. Although these countries are not crucial to Russia’s survival, as long as they remain outside Moscow’s control, the West has the ability to get too close to the Russian core for comfort. All these countries know how serious Russia is about its grand plan of expansionism. The 2008 Russo-Georgian war revealed Moscow’s willingness to militarily intervene on its former Soviet turf and sent the message to these countries that they must obey or cut a deal with Moscow, or else risk being crushed. Since then, these countries have watched Russia consolidate Kazakhstan and Belarus into a customs union (with the promise of becoming a formal union) and have seen a pro-Russian wave engulf Ukraine. (Stratfor)