Europe Russia border map: Key tension lines pinpointed as Ukraine crisis rages on

Russia’s Defence Ministry shares tanks moving back to base

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During the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his desire to see the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) reduce its movements near to countries which share a border with Russia. Many of these make up what used to be the Soviet Union, and although it has been more than 30 years since the bloc was dissolved, Russia has not let go of its cultural ties. Occasionally, anxieties have festered in these regions, but which could be considered as tension points along Russia’s border?

Ukraine

The most recent development in this situation has seen Russia announce that some units of soldiers have been withdrawn from the border with Ukraine, after they had “accomplished their missions”.

Despite amassing more than 100,000 troops on its western border, Russia has repeatedly denied that it has any plans to invade it’s ex-Soviet neighbour Ukraine.

When Ukrainians deposed their pro-Russian president in early 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s southern Crimean peninsula and backed separatists who captured large swathes of eastern Ukraine.

Finland

Although Finland has long sought to avoid agitating Russia – a country it neighbours in northeast Europe – the latter has frequently provoked Finland in recent times.

Russia has guided military planes into Finnish airspace and deployed submarines and helicopters to chase after Finnish research vessels in international waters.

Finland is not a member of Nato, but this hasn’t absolved them from Russian aggression, prompting Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb to advocate joining the organisation.

Were the country to opt for this course of action, it’s unlikely the news would be well-received in Moscow.

Latvia

As the situation in Ukraine has continued to rumble on, fears have grown in the Baltic nations – including Latvia – that they could be next to face Russian advances.

Latvia’s Defence Minister Artis Pabriks has proposed a hike in defence spending to 2.5 percent of economic output – from 2.3 percent – to fund upgrades across the country’s armed forces.

As a member of Nato, Mr Pabriks has also called on larger allies – namely the UK and US – to send more troops and equipment to his country to help it deter Russia.

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Estonia

Similarly to it’s Baltic neighbour, Estonia’s President Alar Karis has also urged Nato to increase troop numbers in the country, owing to the crisis in Ukraine.

He told Politico that “you never know” if Russia will look to employ similar tactics against Estonia and other bordering nations.

Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Nato personnel were deployed to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as Poland, with each country hosting around 1,000 troops.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that Nato limit its presence within eastern Europe, but saw the US rebuff his requests before the end of last month.

Lithuania

In January, Lithuania’s Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said that Russian troops in Belarus were a “direct threat” to his country – which sits between Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

As a close ally of Russia, Belarus has allowed Russian troops to move through the country and set up positions along Ukraine’s northern border.

Like Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania is a member of Nato and a former Soviet country, which Mr Putin is keen not to see align itself further with western interests.

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