U.S. soldiers take part in a military parade in Kiev on Aug. 24, 2018, to celebrate the 27th anniversary of Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union. Ukraine is at the heart of the rivalry in Eastern Europe between the United States and Russia.
(GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images)
The standoff between Russia and the West has shown little sign of abating throughout 2018, and recent U.S. efforts to ramp up the pressure on the Kremlin signal that such tensions are only going to increase in the year to come. One key element of U.S. pressure on Moscow centers on Washington's ties with former Soviet countries on Russia's periphery, from Eastern Europe to the Caucasus to Central Asia. Because of Russia's lack of geographic barriers, these territories form buffer states that protect the country's core from foreign powers while also providing a conduit for the Kremlin to project influence outward. Indeed, Russia's rise and fall as a regional and global power has historically depended on its ability to control these territories; as a result, these states have naturally played a crucial role in the United States' containment strategy against Russia in the post-Soviet period. And as tensions grow between...
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