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Russia’s Backyard Weighs Opportunities, Threats From Putin’s War

Ex-Soviet states are striving to avoid conflict and loosen Moscow ties as Putin’s war in Ukraine sends tremors through the region

Smoke rises from a fire following an air strike in the western city of Lviv, Ukraine. 

Smoke rises from a fire following an air strike in the western city of Lviv, Ukraine. 

Photographer: Aleksey Fillipov/AFP/Getty Images

With President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine stalling, other former Soviet states are weighing prospects for pulling away from Moscow’s orbit even as they fear risks of potential border conflict. 

The war is sending tremors along an arc of instability stretching from Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova through the Caucasus and into Kazakhstan in central Asia. Putin’s intentions have become an urgent national security question in countries with so-called “frozen conflicts” or that have large pro-Russian minorities.