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The signs of failure in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are readily apparent: the tarnished reputation of its military as a modernized, overpowering fighting force; its tattered economy; and a Western alliance more unified than at any time since the worst tensions of the Cold War.

But what is less appreciated is that this is only the latest and potentially the most spectacular in a series of failures suffered by President Vladimir Putin of Russia in Ukraine. If Afghanistan is the “graveyard of empires,” Ukraine is where Putin’s imperial ambitions consistently founder.

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