Stratfor’s Friedman in 2010 via Noonan:
“Russia had its guts carved out after the collapse of communism. St. Petersburg, its jewel, was about a thousand miles away from NATO troops in 1989. Now it is less than one hundred miles away. In 1989, Moscow was twelve hundred miles from the limits of Russian power. Now it is about two hundred miles.” Russia does not feel it has to “conquer the world,” but that it must “regain and hold its buffers—essentially the boundaries of the old Soviet Union”…
“It is only a matter of time before Russian influence will overwhelm Kiev,” Mr. Friedman wrote. The Russians “must dominate Belarus and Ukraine for their basic national security. . . . Ukraine and Belarus are everything to the Russians. If they are to fall into the enemy’s hands—for example, join NATO—Russia would be in mortal danger.” Reabsorbing Belarus and Ukraine “into the Russian sphere of influence is a given in the next five years.”
The flashpoint after that will be the Baltics—Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania—all former parts of the old Soviet Union, all members of NATO. Russia will attempt to neutralize them. All of this will be not a sudden confrontation but an extended one. The tools the Russians will use will be covert (financing and energizing local Russian minorities), economic (cutting or threatening to cut the flow of natural gas) and military pressure (stationing troops near borders).
At first, Mr. Friedman wrote, the U.S. will underestimate Russia. Then it will be obsessed with Russia.