Writing in the Wall Street Journal Doug Feith makes what I think is actually a pretty good point—lots of countries on the periphery of Russia have Russian minorities to “protect”:
With a victory in Ukraine under his belt, Mr. Putin might manufacture grounds for a Russian military intervention to protect the ethnic Russians in Latvia. They could be for him what Czechoslovakia’s Sudeten Germans were for Hitler in 1938: a pretext for aggression. If Mr. Putin thinks NATO is bluffing when it says it will defend the Baltic states, he may call that bluff. If he’s right, he could destroy NATO without war, the very alliance that destroyed the Soviet Union without war. Nice.
I think that Moldavia or, maybe, Georgia are actually better candidates but he’s got a point.
That does raise a question: is Germany actually prepared to go to war against Russia to protect the territorial integrity of Latvia? Is the United States? Will expanding NATO into former Soviet republics prove to be stabilizing of destabilizing? I’ve always been skeptical of its prudence and unless all parties are very careful we may have the opportunity to find out.