(FreedomBeacon.com)- A former prime minister of Russia warned this week that if Ukraine is defeated by Russian forces, it is likely that Russian President Vladimir Putin will set his sights on the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Mikhail Kasyanov, who served as Putin’s first prime minister from 2000 to 2004, told a French news outlet on Monday that it was imperative that Russian forces be defeated in Ukraine because if Russia is victorious, he believes Putin will then invade Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
“If Ukraine falls,” Kasyanov said, “the Baltic States will be next.”
Unlike Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are all members of NATO. An attack on the Baltic States would likely trigger a military response from the alliance under NATO’s Article V mutual defense provision.
While any invasion of the Baltic countries would be a substantial escalation, Kasyanov said he doesn’t believe Vladimir Putin is thinking straight, adding that the Russian president’s current behavior is radically different from what it was when the two worked together.
Kasyanov also predicted that the war in Ukraine is far from over, expecting it to last at least two years. He dismissed calls from Western leaders who have urged Ukraine to negotiate an end to the war by ceding territory to Russia, saying it was an “overly pragmatic position” that Putin does not deserve.
Putin fired Kasyanov in 2004, leading the former prime minister to join the Kremlin opposition party. Since then, he has been a vocal critic of the Russian government. Kasyanov fled the country for an undisclosed location in Europe after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.
Kasyanov remains convinced that Russia will eventually “return to the path of building a democratic state” once the country is rid of Vladimir Putin. Though he believes this “de-Putinisation” of Russia may take ten years to achieve.
The most difficult process for a new Russian leader will be reestablishing ties with the West, Kasyanov added, especially after the damage caused by Putin’s “criminal war.”