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Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2011 at the opening of the Nord Stream pipeline, which supplied Germany but bypassed Ukraine

© Bloomberg via Getty Images

Russia’s southern and eastern borders have been in a permanent state of flux since Catherine the Great first annexed Crimea in 1783. The latest opportunist annexation is but one more episode in a long history. Joseph Stalin gained almost all the territory Russia coveted in what he regarded as its backyard. Mikhail Gorbachev then lost most of it. The game is now being rejoined in…

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