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When geography matters

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Igor Stravinsky, the Russian composer, said of Poland, perilously positioned between Russia and Germany: “If you pitch your tent in the middle of Fifth Avenue, it is quite likely you will be run over by a bus.” Poland has been run over hard and often; indeed, between 1795 and 1918 it disappeared from the map of Europe.

Geography need not be destiny, but it matters, as Ukraine is being reminded. During its hazardous path to the present, all or bits of it have been parts of Poland, the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Ottoman empire, the Russian empire, the Soviet Union and now another Russian empire. Czarist Russia, which Lenin called “the prison of the peoples,” is re-emerging and has in Vladimir Putin an ambitious warden.

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