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About a mile from a border post that marks the last Ukrainian-controlled territory before Crimea, soldiers suddenly emerge from the long sea grass to check on an idling car.

Their concern over who comes and goes is no surprise. Should Russia decide to invade Ukraine as feared by the U.S., tanks and infantry would likely pour across this narrow causeway connecting the peninsula to the wide open steppe of southern Ukraine in numbers Europe hasn’t seen since 1945.

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PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)