Members of Ukraine's National Guard stand in line during the opening ceremony of a sniper's training center at the Guard's training base near Kiev, Ukraine, March 18, 2016.
Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

Ukraine needs a grand strategy—a set of overarching and realistic goals to serve as a road map for its geopolitical, economic, and cultural development in the next 20 years. The ongoing war with Russia has amply demonstrated that Ukraine can no longer assume that things will just work themselves out. Nor can it try to pursue good relations with everyone. Russia’s invasion of Crimea and eastern Donbas means that Ukraine has to start choosing—not so much sides as courses of action that promote its own long-term interests.

History holds several lessons for Ukraine. Since the collapse in the thirteenth century of the Kievan Rus state, the territory of today’s Ukraine has been subjected to waves of imperial expansion by aggressive neighboring states. The list includes the Mongols, Lithuanians, Poles, Muscovites, Ottomans, Austrians, Germans, and Russian Bolsheviks. Each invasion destroyed political and social institutions; most also produced enormous human misery. Each aggression ended for good only after the empire concerned was either dismembered, defeated, or transformed into a bounded nation-state.

With one exception—today’s Russia. Despite the historical discontinuities with tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union, in size and expansionist inclinations, today’s Russia is virtually identical

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