BUCHAREST, Romania -- Broken promises of help from the West. A tragic history of Russian invasion that goes back centuries. A painful awareness that conflicts in this volatile region are contagious. These are the factors that make nations across Eastern Europe watch events in Ukraine -- and tremble.
From leaders to ordinary people, there is a palpable sense of fear that Russia -- seemingly able to thumb its nose at Western powers at will -- may seek more opportunities for incursions in its former imperial backyard. The question many people are asking is: Who's next?
"There is, first of all, fear ... that there could be a possible contagion," Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean said in an interview. "Romania is extremely preoccupied."
Specifically, concerns run high that after taking over the strategic peninsula of Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin may be tempted to try a land grab in Moldova, where Russian troops are stationed in the breakaway province of Trans-Dniester. It's one of several "frozen conflicts" across Eastern Europe whose ranks Crimea -- many in the West now say with resignation -- has joined.
In Romania, which neighbors predominantly Romanian-speaking Moldova, Monica Nistorescu urged the West to stand up to Mr. Putin, lest he come to view himself as unbeatable. "The world should stop seeing Putin as the invincible dragon with silver teeth," she said, "because we will succeed in making him believe that Russia is what it once was."
Across the border, Moldovan fears of Russian invasion were in no way theoretical: "We are afraid the conflict in Ukraine could reach us in Moldova," said Victor Cotruta, a clerk in the capital, Chisinau. "Russian troops could take over Moldova in a day."