EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The conflict in East Ukraine has reached a frozen phase in which neither side is making many gains. Despite agreements, the conflict has not seen any meaningful breakthrough for more than three years. Geopolitical imperatives dictate that progress will be contingent upon either Russia or Ukraine (i.e., the West) conceding their interests. The Ukrainian problem is rooted in the geography of the country as well as in the consistent failure of Russia to leverage its involvement in Syria and other theaters for western concessions.
To a European, Ukraine lies on the ancient invasion route through which all major eastern onslaughts on Europe take place. From a Russian perspective, however, Ukraine is the land through which western invasions of Russia occur. Russians well remember the powerful armies of both King Charles XII of Sweden in the 18th century and Hitler in the 20th century marching eastward through Ukraine.
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